At the Invictus Games in the Hague in April, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle highlighted the bravery of Team Ukraine. The global spotlight turned out to be a turning point for one captured Invictus Games competitor, Yuliia "Taira" Paievska, a paramedic.
A few of Team Ukraine's Invictus Games competitors were given special leave by President Volodymyr Zelensky to participate in the competition. However, one team member didn't make it: Paievska was captured by Russian soldiers in Mariupol ahead of the Games. In her place, her daughter, Anna-Sofia Puzanova, traveled to the Invictus Games to bring attention to her mother's story.
In June, Paievska was released by the Russians—and credits the media attention during the Invictus Games with helping save her life.
"I am very grateful to Prince Harry, because it was after... the Invictus Games that the Russians stopped interrogating and torturing me. I think that spreading the word to the whole world influenced their decision to trade me in a prisoner exchange," she told the Telegraph.
Now, Paievska shared that the Duke of Sussex called her a week after her release from Russian captivity. "He said that he supports Ukraine and all of us," and that "the Invictus Games family always takes care of its members." She also shared Prince Harry spoke "strongly and sincerely" about Ukraine.
Paievska also said the Invictus Games next year is what is helping her recover from her captivity. "I still get tired very quickly and sometimes break down," she said. "I think the motivation to get to the Invictus Games next year will pull me together finally."
This is not the first time the Sussexes have gotten involved in supporting Ukrainians; in March, they announced donations to a number of charities working to support Ukrainians—including Chef José Andrés's World Central Kitchen.
"I think what people need to remember, or perhaps don't even know yet, is the vast majority of the Ukrainian team was serving in some shape or form," Harry told BBC News during the Invictus Games. "They removed their uniforms, put their team strips on, jumped on the coach and came over here, slept for a couple of days, tried to decompress, and then were straight into it."
"Then they've got to go back" to the war, he continued. "To have them here is extraordinary."
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