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"I had to survive to hug my son again": Azov Brigade sergeant comes back home after 2 years in Russian captivity

Friday, 14 June 2024, 15:37
I had to survive to hug my son again: Azov Brigade sergeant comes back home after 2 years in Russian captivity
Nataliia has survived 27 months of separation from her son. Photo: Ukraine's Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War

During the 52nd prisoner-of-war (POW) swap, Ukraine liberated Nataliia Manuilova, a servicewoman belonging to the Azov Special Operations Detachment who had spent over two years in Russian captivity.

The story of defender Nataliia, who survived separation from her son, a mock trial and witnessed Ukrainian soldiers being tortured, was shared by the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War (CHTPOW).

Nataliia joined Ukraine's Armed Forces back in 2017 when she signed a contract to serve as a cook. Later, she was promoted to head the canteen.


Following the onset of the full-scale invasion, she continued to provide meals to Ukrainian defenders at the Azovstal steelworks despite constant Russian bombardment.

"Even after the part of the steelworks housing the field kitchen was destroyed, the unit's cooks continued to prepare meals on small stoves," the headquarters said.

After being evacuated from the steelworks in late May 2022, Nataliia immediately rushed to see her son, who was in the Russian-occupied territory.


Along the way, she passed through Russian checkpoints and bombardments. The boy developed a complicated pneumonia, which she tried to treat without medication while hiding from the Russians.

"Russian soldiers broke into our house one morning. They put a bag over my head, twisted my arms and took me to the Donetsk pre-trial detention centre. I was worried about my child again, uncertain about his fate," Nataliia shares her memories.

Nataliia was held in various places of detention in Russian captivity, in one of which she was involved in a mock trial broadcast by Russian propaganda media.

The CHTPOW noted that the Russians even kept Nataliia in a cage. Additionally, Manuilova witnessed firsthand the suffering of Ukrainian POWs subjected to torture.

It was only in late May that she was brought back to the territory of Ukraine, where she was finally able to hug her son again after 27 months of captivity.

"All this time, he was filming his achievements and interesting events on his phone to show his mother after she came back so that he could make up for the lost years," the headquarters added.

Background: Earlier, we shared the story of Vitalii, a border guard with the Ukrainian Sea Guard, who resumed his service after 20 months of Russian captivity. He explained his decision by saying that his "struggle will continue until the victory".

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