Skip to main content

Symbol of Ukraine's uprising emerges from a tweet

By Frederik Pleitgen, CNN
updated 1:19 PM EST, Sat February 22, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "I'm dying," 21-year-old medic tweets
  • Olyesa Zhukovska was shot in the neck by a sniper
  • A weak voice, still defiant: "We are waiting for new elections"

Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) -- As violence raged on Thursday in central Kiev, 21-year-old volunteer medic Olyesa Zhukovska was providing first aid to wounded protesters when she was struck in the neck by a sniper's bullet.

"I'm dying," she tweeted as blood gushed from her throat.

Even as her prediction proved wrong, her tweet was immortalized as it ricocheted across the Internet.

Two days later, from a hospital bed, she recalled the moment when she was struck.

Police join protesters after deadly riot
Take a tour of Kiev's Independence Square

"I heard a loud bang," she told CNN. "At first, I thought it was a grenade, but then my friend said, 'You have been hit by a sniper; you are bleeding.' Both our hands were full of blood."

The bullet had pierced her neck, somehow missing vital vessels, but doing serious damage nonetheless.

"It is very hard for me to speak and it hurts to eat," she said weakly. "I'm starting to walk again; I lost a lot of blood."

At the time she was shot, Zhukovska was on a front line in the battle between opposition and security forces trying to help the wounded.

She was lucky. Dozens of other demonstrators who were defending the barricades in Independence Square were killed on Thursday, nearly a third of them by snipers.

The location had been transformed Saturday into a memorial.

At the hospital, Zhukovska's parents were by her side on Saturday, offering succor even as their daughter's spirit remained defiant.

"We are waiting for new elections," she said weakly. "We want a different president, a different government and a better situation in Ukraine."

Zhukovska said she was glad her tweet had reached so many people; her parents were glad it proved wrong.

CNN's Tom Watkins contributed to this story

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:17 AM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Donetsk's neediest line up for food handouts. There are long queues at the bus station as people try to leave town. There are no banks left open.
updated 5:25 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Barking overwhelms the thud of artillery fire. An animal shelter is crammed with 1,000 dogs, many orphans of the conflict with owners who have fled or been killed.
updated 3:51 AM EDT, Fri October 3, 2014
Reza Sayah looks into why thousands of Ukrainians have left their old lives to volunteer to fight.
updated 4:48 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
CNN's Ralitsa Vassileva speaks to The New Republic's Linda Kinstler about Putin's motives with Ukraine and China.
updated 10:36 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
President Barack Obama speaks at the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
updated 5:58 PM EST, Thu November 13, 2014
The Commander of NATO forces in Europe says Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian troops -- all heading into Ukraine.
updated 8:58 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 broke apart in the air after it was hit by a burst of "high-energy objects" from outside, a preliminary report by Dutch aviation investigators said Tuesday.
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
On a country road in eastern Ukraine, a scene of bucolic tranquility was suddenly interrupted by the aftermath of carnage.
updated 4:19 PM EDT, Tue September 2, 2014
In the city of Donetsk, the devastation wrought by weeks of fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces is all too apparent.
updated 8:00 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
CNN's Diana Magnay reports from the front lines in the Ukrainian conflict.
updated 7:26 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
A few miles south of the town of Starobeshevo in eastern Ukraine, a group of men in uniform is slumped under a tree.
updated 9:43 AM EDT, Sat August 23, 2014
A shopkeeper's mutilated body, relatives' anguish, homes destroyed ... this is Donetsk.
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
A 20-minute drive from Kiev takes you to a neighborhood that feels more like Beverly Hills than central Ukraine.
updated 9:12 AM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
Photos illustrate the ongoing crisis in Ukraine as fighting continues to flare in the region.
updated 12:31 PM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
Future imports, exports between the EU and Russia are now banned -- but existing contracts continue.
updated 11:40 AM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
updated 5:25 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
The downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 put the pro-Russia rebels operating in Ukraine's eastern region center stage.
ADVERTISEMENT