By Yuriy Butusov, Chief Editor at Censor.NET
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
How happy I was that we managed to find her! An awesome photo by the famous French photographer Eric Bouvet has become one of the most vivid impressions of the tragic and heroic day of February 20, 2014. Snipers began shooting at unarmed people on Instytutska Street [in Kyiv, Ukraine]. Maidaners [protesters on Maidan Nezalezhnosty or Independence Square] did not leave their people behind – they tried to get everyone out, but the murderers kept shooting at those trying to pull the wounded people out. And when the men were killed, this woman came to the rescue of the wounded – without a helmet, shield, or bullet-proof vest, with her hair down. She had no protection whatsoever. Nothing but her whole-hearted courage, love for the people, a sense of duty, and God’s providence.
But she didn’t have a name. On March 11, I wrote an appeal to help find this unacknowledged heroine.
And now, after one month and over 4,000 shared posts, Facebook produced a true miracle–kind people helped me to contact her. Meet Maria Matvijiv, an emergency nurse at “Lviv regional center for medical care and disaster medicine,” in the town of Busk in Lviv Oblast [region]. Maria knows nothing about the hype around her feat on the Internet, and her world-famous photograph on Instytutska Street. She has no account in the social networks, nor an e-mail address, nor time to surf the news. She has a 12-year old son Dmytryk, husband Petro, mom Myroslava, and such a regular, hard job–to save lives. I wrote down her story, very simply and completely devoid of picturesqueness and narcissism.
“I came to Maidan five times during the revolution. My sister and husband came with me every time when it got dangerous on Maidan. We were always on the front lines. I knew that Maidan was our chance to change our life for the best, and I did not have questions as to what had to be done and what didn’t. What is the point of living in fear? We always lived in the tent of our Busk Sotnia [company]. We were at home in Busk on February 18, 2014, when we saw horrifying pictures from events in Kyiv, dozens of dead and injured people, we were shocked. But in the evening, my husband and I gathered our things and came out to the [town] square where the bus was leaving for Kyiv. Here was the first time I saw how scared many men were–there weren’t too many volunteers. 30 of us left for Kyiv, and I was the only female.
We arrived on Maidan at 3:30 pm on February 19. I exited the bus, and was so happy–I saw a lot of people, I saw that Maidan will not give up no matter what, and Maidan gave me strength. Later my husband said that he had a completely different impression from what he had seen on Maidan–he saw what I didn’t pay attention to–that the last line of defense ran under the stage, they did not have enough fuel, and there were few Molotov cocktails left. We immediately started to pour Molotov cocktails and pass them to the frontline. We worked all day and all night this way. I had already started helping the wounded, and began to cook food. We found out about the truce on the morning of February 20, and as soon as the police left Maidan, we decided to get some sleep. Just as I dozed off, our guy from Busk ran into the tent – he said that our people were shot at near the October Palace, and that they urgently needed medics.
I ran towards the October Palace – I did not have a helmet or a bullet-proof vest. I decided not to put on the Red Cross cape. Sniper shots easily pierce through this armor. Ever since the confrontations on Hrushevskiy Street, I saw how medics in bright uniforms could become targets, and that’s why I did not want to attract unnecessary attention. On the road above me, I saw how they had started shooting at people on Instytutska Street. The hail of fire was very dense, the roar of shots went on continuously. At first, I helped one young man with a light wound. Then I crawled towards the fighter who got wounded in a leg. But cries for help were coming from the very top of the barricade. I crawled upwards. Here, snipers would not let people approach the wounded.
I stopped for a minute. I remembered my [son] Dmytryk, my life, people I am close to, everyone I love. But the cries for help were louder than the shots. And so I crawled to him.
The guy in a photo was shot when I was already quite close to him. When I approached him, I saw that he had a severe head wound. The hole from a bullet entrance was about 2 centimeters [.8 inches] in diameter, and the blood kept pouring out in a forceful stream, just like from a faucet. All I could do immediately was to stop the bleeding. As soon as I put a bandage on him the orderlies ran over and carried him out. Then, another man by a tree got wounded in his stomach–a very severe wound. The bullet literally ripped him open and also spurted blood like a fountain. The young medic could not give him a shot– people kept falling around, bullets were whistling, screaming, blood. But I have the [necessary] experience–my hand did not tremble. Other people already put bandages on him and took the wounded man. Time seemed to no longer exist, and I did everything on autopilot, and saw nothing but wounded and dead. The man from Kolomya covered me with a shield–I only remembered him the next day, when he reminded me of the day before. I looked around–others could no longer be helped, and the guys were dragging the bodies out.
Overall, I participated in saving four people that morning. Two of them surely remained alive. I saw the fighter with a head wound later–unfortunately, already lying lifeless among the bodies laid out by the “Kozatska” Hotel. Judging by the nature of the injury, the fighter with the bullet to his stomach unfortunately had very little chance to survive… I came back to Kyiv to commemorate them for nine days. When will I be in Kyiv again? I don’t know. People seem to be going there in May, and maybe even in a year… But, my mom corrects me that if there is war, then I will have to go [there] again. Of course, Mom, of course I will go. Now that we’ve managed to liberate the land [from Yanukovych], we will manage to protect it.”
I told Maria, that thousands of people are proud of her, and admire her. That I was ready to invite her and her family to Kyiv, that we would pay for her transportation and board, that talking to her is a great honor. But … and I haven’t heard a drop of affectation or showing off–she refused, because she has “a lot of work.” She has everything of course. How do you reward a person whose feat is immeasurable in medals? I hope Faceboook will prompt us in this. I said the following,
“Maria, you thought that you saved four lives, but in reality you saved thousands of souls that became free, for whom your actions became the example of love for one’s neighbor, love for one’s Motherland.”
Thank you, Maria Matvijiv. Glory to Ukraine!