Prince Harry hugs daughter of Ukrainian war hero who was captured and tortured by Russian forces for 12 weeks
Prince Harry hugged the daughter Ukrainian war hero who was captured and tortured by Russian forces for 12 weeks at the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games.
The Duke of Sussex, 39, gave Anna-Sofia Puzanova, daughter of Yuliia Paievska, a warm embrace during the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany, yesterday.
The volunteer paramedic Yuliia, who won bronze for Ukraine at the Invictus Games, was kidnapped by Russian soldiers in March 2022 while she was heading to treat injured members of public after a bomb attack on a theatre in Mariupol.
While she was detained, her then 19-year-old daughter Anna-Sofia competed in her place in archery at the Invictus Games, winning a bronze medal.
The young woman, 20, also raised her mother’s plight with the board of Invictus Games, which led to a phone call from Prince Harry upon her mother’s release.
Prince Harry hugged Anna-Sofia Puzanova – the daughter Ukrainian war hero who was captured and tortured by Russian forces for 12 weeks at the Invictus Games in Dusseldorf, Germany yesterday
Anna-Sofia 20, raised her mother’s plight with the board of Invictus Games, which led to a phone call from Prince Harry upon her mother’s release
The 53-year-old, who was tortured by Russian forces for three months, says a phone call from Prince Harry after her release inspired her to ‘continue fighting’ for her country.
Anna-Sofia said Harry knew about the situation with her mother and the pair showed her ‘a lot of support’.
Yuliia previously described being interrogated and being told lies that Ukraine had been eradicated in the invasion The Telegraph reported.
Ms Paievska, a member of Ukraine’s team for the Invictus Games, received a phone call from the Duke of Sussex one week after she was released by her captors. She said he spoke ‘strongly and sincerely’ about the conflict in Ukraine.
‘He simply inspired me to continue to fight,’ said Ms Paievska. ‘He said that he supports Ukraine and all of us.’
Despite the trauma of her captivity, Ms Paievska says she is determined to carry on assisting Ukraine as it defends itself from continued Russian aggression.
She initially retrained as a paramedic in 2014 to help as tensions arose in the eastern Donbas region and founded Tayra’s Angels, the volunteer ambulance corps.
Within her home country, Ms Paievska has risen to fame after treating 500 Ukrainian soldiers in the Dombas as well as training 8,000 people in tactical medicine.
The Duchess was pictured at the Dusseldorf hotel walking alongside Yuliia (nicknamed ‘Taira’) as they attended a friends and family reception on the second evening of the week-long event
She and a colleague were driving an ambulance through an humanitarian corridor in Mariupol on March 16 when they were ambushed by Russian troops, who considered her a high profile target.
Ms Paievska soon found herself in solitary confinement with just half a glass of water to drink each day and no treatment for her thyroid and asthma conditions. She was later moved into a women’s cell measuring 10ft by 20ft, where she says the captives were routinely beaten and tortured with electricity.
She said: ‘I had absolutely no information about what was happening in the outside world, I didn’t even know if my family was alive or if my house had survived because the Russians were already in Kyiv when we left.’
Ms Paievska added: ‘I am very grateful to Prince Harry because it was after the Invictus Games… that the Russians stopped interrogating and torturing me. I think spreading the word to the whole world influenced their decision to trade me in a prisoner exchange.’
The Duke of Sussex , 39, gave Anna-Sofia, daughter of Yuliia Paievska, a warm embrace during the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games
Anna-Sofia said Harry knew about the situation with her mother and the pair showed her ‘a lot of support’
While her mother was detained, Anna-Sofia competed in her place in archery at the Invictus Games last year winning a bronze medal (pictured this year at the Invictus Games)
It comes after Meghan, 42, shared a sweet moment with Yuliia at her first Invictus Games event on Wednesday.
The Duchess was pictured at the Dusseldorf hotel walking alongside Yuliia (nicknamed ‘Taira’) as they attended a friends and family reception on the second evening of the week-long event.
The pair looked like old friends as Taira took Meghan’s wrist with her hand and they both beamed as the Duke of Sussex walked alongside them.
Taira, a mother-of-one, tells her heartbreaking story in the fifth and final episode of Harry’s Netflix series, Heart of Invictus – and credits the tournament for helping to secure her release.
Ms Paievska began working on the Ukrainian frontline in 2014. She was later injured during an evacuation operation.
‘Seven years on the front, I have titanium joints in my legs, my backbone suffers, and I’ve been having these traumas for a long time,’ she told the Netflix documentary, adding that test results revealed she had suffered two heart attacks. Her medical condition forced her reconsider her role as a paramedic.
She said she first heard about the Invictus Games while she was in hospital after on of her surgeries.
Volunteer paramedic Yulia was kidnapped by Russian soldiers in March while she was heading to treat injured members of public after a bomb attack on a theatre in Mariupol
Ms Paievska, a member of Ukraine’s team for the Invictus Games (pictured here at a training event) received a phone call from the Duke of Sussex a week after she was released by her captors
Prince Harry and Meghan presented Yuliia with a medal at the Swimming Ceremony at Invictus Games
Appearing in the fifth episode of Heart of Invictus, which landed on streaming giant Netflix last month, Taira recalled some of her horrific experience at the hands of Russian forces and emphasised the importance of the Invictus Games in improving the lives of veterans.
She said: ‘It was a period when I was sure that I would be killed or die from torture.
‘About one month before I was released, they stopped hitting me, and that was when the Invictus Games started.
‘The Invictus Games shared my story with the whole world. [Russian troops] realised they couldn’t keep me captured anymore.’
Taira’s daughter, Ana-Sofia, also speaks in the documentary about her mother’s capture and eventual return.
She recalled barely recognising Taira when she was released by Russian forces, saying she looked ‘like a skinny boy’.
‘I hear her voice, and I realise this is my mum,; Ana-Sofia recalled.
‘We were all standing in silence for a couple of minutes, hugging each other.’