Espreso. Global

Ukrainian border guard shares her experience of Russian captivity

14 March, 2023 Tuesday

The border guard, who had been working near Mariupol since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, spent 6 months in Russian torture chambers. The woman told about her time in captivity

Espreso journalist talked to border guard Liudmyla Kravchuk. 

Read the beginning of Liudmyla's story here: "We worked 15 to 20 hours a day": Volyn border guard Liudmyla Kravchuk speaks about rescuing soldiers in Mariupol

"We heard a command: we have thermal imagers, we can see you well. Surrender, or you will die," were the words Liudmyla Kravchuk heard when she and her group tried to get out of the besieged Mariupol. Then they were captured by Russian troops. 

"It was a special unit of regular Russian forces. They even treated us very well," says Liudmyla Kravchuk. "We spent the night in a bus, they even gave us blankets. And they added that we were lucky because at least we were alive. But that was the end of their properness. We never received such treatment moving on."

Constantly bent over and sewing agricultural suits

Ironically, Liudmyla Kravchuk was brought back to the village of Sartana in the morning, but it was already under Russia’s control. 

"We were taken to concrete hangars," she recalls, "There was nothing there, even windows had no glass. It was still extremely cold, it was raining and there were constant draughts. When I arrived, all the people from the hospital were already there. Those who had some sleeping bags laid them on the cold floor and spent the night there."

In the morning, everyone was taken to Olenivka. She spent several days there, and then was transferred to a detention center in Taganrog. Later she was taken to a women's colony in the Kursk region, Russia. According to Liudmyla, during interrogations, they collected information about cruel treatment of Russian prisoners of war or civilians. They asked what weapons were available in Ukraine. In addition, the Russian military constantly exerted moral and physical pressure on the prisoners.

"We were bent over, not even walking, but running," the woman says. "They were shouting: "Go even faster!" They forced us to sing the Russian anthem and recite Russian poetry. They told us that Ukraine no longer existed, that it had already been divided, that referendums had been held. They were constantly shouting at us. Some guards treated us more or less well, but some treated us very badly. I remember a girl got sick, a doctor came to her and started beating her, saying, "I came to work, and you are sick here and will infect me as well.”

In addition, women were forced to work.

"In Valuiky, there were convicts working. In the same room in the classroom, we sewed agricultural suits," notes Liudmyla. "Next to the room was a metal structure where garbage was burned. It was hot and all the soot was blowing through our windows. We were constantly sitting, unable to get up, stretch our legs and walk around. We had to sit and sew all the time. But it was easier in the sense that the day passed faster."

Her daughter did not recognize her, saying she did not know who was calling her

In captivity, Liudmyla was most afraid of the unknown. She admits that she kept telling the girls that they had to survive this period. They were also very worried about what country they would return to. The woman spent 6 months in such hell. And finally there was hope for release.

"We did not know until the last moment. We started to guess only in the Kursk region," says Liudmyla. "We were getting dressed, and one of the colony workers said, 'You are lightly dressed, then you will come to your Ukraine and say that the Russians have 'frozen you' here. It was such a wake-up call. And then they brought me back to Taganrog, but the attitude was completely different." 

At that time, there were already some Azovstal nurses in the Taganrog colony. They took Lyudmila to her cell and gave her clean underwear. So the women had even more hope of returning. 

"I remember that day well," says Liudmyla Kravchuk. "From Sunday to Monday at about five in the morning, before the 'get up' command, they started taking us out of our cells. But we did not believe it until the last moment. Even when we realized that we were going towards Ukraine. And when we arrived in the gray zone, we were so worried that we would not be able to make it."

And finally, the long-awaited moment came. The woman returned to Ukraine. The first thing she did was call her daughters back. 

"I called my youngest and told her that I had already returned. And she replied, 'I don't have your phone number, I'm sorry, but I don't know who is calling me,'” she laughs. 

The woman continued to undergo treatment and rehabilitation after her captivity. Last year, on December 22, she returned to service. "For personal courage and selflessness in the defense of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and loyalty to the military oath," she received the Order of Courage, III degree, from the President of Ukraine.

Read also:
  • News
2024, Monday
26 February
New Russian PSYOP: Ukrainians of Hungarian origin receive threats in Zakarpattia
President's Office confirms that Ukraine is working to open one of its airports
British intelligence explains how Russia uses energy in its war against Ukraine
U.S. Senate aide investigated for illegally providing sniper gear to Ukrainian military – NYT
Russia shows no signs of halting and is unprepared for negotiations - political technologist
Russian artillery works relentlessly in Zaporizhzhia direction, says "Legion of Freedom" spokesman Denysov
Ukraine should provide statistics on losses at least once a month
Polish farmers stage blockade on German border in protest
Russia plans to produce 2.7 million shells in 2024 — Ukraine's Intelligence
Ukrainian Armed Forces retreat to western outskirts of Lastochkine near Avdiivka
Ghost missile: Everything we know about "hypersonic" Zircon Russia launches at Kyiv
Challenging days ahead: military expert Zgurets discusses Avdiivka region situation
Military expert Samus explains why Ukraine lacks artillery rounds
Ukrainian Armed Forces eliminate 2 Russian air defense systems, 13 tanks and 880 soldiers per day
Russian media avoid mentioning 2nd year of Ukraine invasion to downplay setbacks — ISW
Russians kill seven Ukrainian POWs near Bakhmut: prosecutor's office launches investigation
Russia attacks Ukraine’s Sumy region, killing married couple, injuring 4 more
Ukraine's NATO membership: prospects and challenges two years into full-scale war
2024, Sunday
25 February
Ukraine can gain frontline advantage even before NATO summit — U.S. expert Fried
Explosions witnessed by Russians: Blasts in Mariupol, fire at Sukhoi aircraft manufacturer's plant, and drones in Russian regions
Putin will be weakened by Ukraine getting frozen Russian assets — Zelenskyy
Russia unable to annex Transnistria
F-16 fighters in Ukraine: game changer for situation on battlefield?
31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in this war, the Russians lost 180,000 troops - Zelenskyy
Russians have no Iranian missiles — Ukraine's Intelligence
Poland holds grain spill instigators to account at Ukrainian-Polish border — Ukraine's PM Shmyhal
90% of drones in frontline service made in Ukraine - Digital Minister Fedorov
‘I would not recommend civilians use the Crimean Bridge’ — Ukraine's Spy Chief Budanov
Umerov affirms Ukraine's robust 2024 plan
Lithuanians raise over €8 million for Ukrainian military equipment
Every Russian advance incurs significant losses, says officer Tsekhotskyi
Ukrainian intelligence comments on speculation that Transnistria will ask to join Russia
No combat in Robotyne center, says Zaporizhzhia Regional Council Deputy Lyshenko
Russia suffers substantial equipment losses in assaults, says Luhansk official
Andriy Lyubka: We have all partly died in two years of war
Russia spreads disinformation about "Nazi alliance with Bandera supporters"
Russia loses 8 tanks, 29 artillery systems, and 810 soldiers in one day – Ukraine's General Staff
Russian forces destroy train station in Kostyantynivka, Donetsk region
Russia attempts to destroy Ukrainian air defense in South during night assault
2024, Saturday
24 February
Total Resistance: the launch of calendar dedicated to the heroic struggle of Ukrainians against Russia
More news