Olga Mamysheva, Ukrainian and first aid worker: "I want to be there for my country"

Olga Mamysheva, Ukrainian and first aid worker: “I want to be there for my country”

In a year and a half of conflict, nearly 7.5 million Ukrainians have emigrated. But you stayed…

It seemed obvious to me! This invasion is taking place in my country, I needed to be present. My decision may be difficult to understand, but I feel good in Ukraine. Even if there are fights and bombardments, it is this air that I wish to breathe…

Did you follow the failed rebellion attempt led by Yevgeny Prigojine on June 24 in Russia?

Yes, we were sitting in our basement basement when we heard the news. I don’t know what Prigozhin would have done with Ukraine if his rebellion had succeeded, because he’s no better than Putin. On the ground, we have not observed a lull, quite the contrary. After this destabilization, Putin will no doubt do everything to maintain the support of public opinion.

What is your action on the ground?

I am part of the Medical Battalion Les Hospitaliers, an organization that helps evacuate the wounded by ambulance. I am what is called an “emergency medical technician”. We can move anywhere in the country. Last February, for example, I was in the Donetsk region (in the east of the country) where there are numerous clashes with the Russian army. I was in a camp a few kilometers from the front line and I had to be on alert day and night – you have to be ready in three minutes. When we recover a fighter a few kilometers from our location, having taken him out of the battlefield thanks to another team. Then we have to drive very fast, because our duty is to transport him alive to the hospital. Placed in the back of the vehicle, I constantly watch the monitor, to check if the injured person is breathing and to provide him with care.

When is your engagement?

In 2014, following the war in the Donbass, I wanted to help my country by learning first aid and specializing in medicine… I joined the battalion but without being active there, I took part only to training while continuing my professional activity as a freelance performer and artist.

And then there was February 24, 2022…

Exactly. I couldn’t sit idly by. In April 2022, I called my teammates to tell them, “I’m ready.”

Your action recalls the commitment of French women during the First World War, when Marie Curie or paramedics provided first aid to the wounded…

Just that! We too have our Marie Curie. Commander Yana Zinkevych created the Medical Battalion Les Hospitaliers in 2014, when she was just 20 years old. At first she was on her own. Today we are about 500 active members in the war zone.

What does your family think of your involvement?

My mother doesn’t know. My father knows and he supports me. But I tell him what a father should know: “Dad, I’m going to Kharkiv”, “Dad, I’m going to Donbass”. (She pauses). Actually… he doesn’t know about the Donbass, I don’t want to worry him. My parents are separated. For the rest, I live alone without children and I have neither brother nor sister.

And your friends?

My close friends know everything about my business. I even wrote the phone number of Igor, my childhood friend, on the medallion that I have to wear around my neck when I am on mission. This is called a “token ticket”, which identifies our body in the event of a problem. When I told him, he cried. He seems really worried about me and constantly reminds me of the danger of what I’m doing.

Do you understand the counter-offensive that is currently taking place?

Not really. Of course, there will be waves of injuries, with many casualties. But what’s the use of thinking about the worst in advance? I know that on the pitch, I will give my all in my work. I don’t want to be sad; the injured in my car don’t need to make me feel depressed! On the contrary, I try to change their minds.

Do you sometimes manage to forget the war?

I try! I have to escape because of this permanent tension. Luckily, I’m an artist, so I take my brushes with me on missions. When we are at the camp, for example, I start painting flowers. I love flowers! I obviously imagine them, because I see few of them on the forehead. In my own way, I try to bring some beauty to this conflict.

“I don’t want to be sad; the injured don’t need me to feel depressed!”

Olga Mamysheva

Was there a meeting that marked you in particular?

I remember a soldier we took to the hospital, completely traumatized by the fighting he had just experienced. He insisted on talking to me and smiling at me. And over the course of our exchanges, we discovered a common acquaintance: my first instructor, in 2015, who had taught me medical gestures. This wounded man asked me to say hello to him. A month after this coincidence, I learned that our friend had passed away. Thanks to this soldier, at least I was able to write to him one last time.

On the pitch, are you scared?

I believe that my nervous system is able to handle all this trauma. I sleep perfectly at night, despite the sound of sirens or explosions; my stress level must surely be out of order… Of course, I am a human being, I cry, I sometimes feel upset or angry. But it’s manageable. Careful, don’t make me a heroine! I also have anxieties.

What do you fear the most?

Above all, not always being competent, making certain mistakes. Above all, I don’t want to fail in my duty.

Did you come to Nice for this reason?

Yes, I jumped at the chance when I was offered to follow this training course led by a former Ukrainian military doctor from the Foreign Legion living in France. It is a real honor to learn gestures that save lives by his side. We face difficult situations near the battlefield; it’s not always easy to know how to act. Thanks to him, I discovered how to open the airways (mouth, trachea, bronchi, etc.), when the injured person cannot be intubated, for example.

The contrast with the daily life of the French, who themselves live in peace, was not too violent?

On the contrary, it’s great to see these lively cafes, restaurants and beaches. People need to enjoy life! I even sent pictures to our soldiers on the front line to show them what our life in Ukraine should be like.

Has the war changed you?

Of course. I became simpler, more open, less attached to things. For example, I earn very little at the moment, everything revolves around the Battalion for which I volunteer. The conflict has also changed Ukrainians in general. Before, we were more introverted. Today, a great surge of solidarity brings us together.

What do you care about the most?

To human beings, the dearest resource to me! “For the good of every life!” proclaims the slogan of our battalion. I am really proud to contribute to it.

His bio

October 19, 1987: Born in Kyiv.

February 2014: Take part in the Maidan revolution.

2015: Volunteer in the Medical Battalion Hospitallers.

May 2022: Go on a mission in the field.

June 2023: Takes part in advanced training in war medicine in France before returning to the Donetsk region

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