“I am dying”, this tweet by a Ukrainian protester, was posted just after she was reportedly shot in the neck by police snipers in Ukraine's capital city Kiev on February 20. The tweet has sparked an outpouring of sadness and support online.
Olesya Zhukovska, a 21-year-old volunteer medic, posted the words in Ukrainian on her Twitter feed and on VKontakte (a Facebook-social network that is particularly popular among Russian-speaking users) minutes after she was shot and while bleeding heavily from her wound. Though she was immediately shifted to hospital and operated upon in time, she remained in critical condition on Thursday night.
After early reports suggested Zhukovska had died, social media users around the world gave vent to their rage and grief online. Her post was retweeted over 6,000 times, and a photograph of her clutching her bleeding neck as she was led away by companions went viral.
But to the relief and joy of internet users worldwide, Zhukovska survived.
“I am alive! Thank you to all those who are praying and supporting me,” she tweeted on Friday. “I am in the hospital; my condition is stable for now!”
Я жива! Дякую всім,хто підтримує та молиться за мене! / Я в лікарні.стан поки що стабільний!
— Olesya Zhukovskaya (@OlesyaZhukovska) February 21, 2014
Twitter users lauded her bravery and wished her a speedy recovery.
— Hungarian Red Cross (@MVoroskereszt) February 21, 2014
@OlesyaZhukovska Very happy to read this!! Keep strong!
— OriolBeg||*|| #SíSí (@GeperutdelBosc) February 22, 2014
@OlesyaZhukovska Good health, long life and the endurance of peace through freedom!
— holt hunziker (@WritaObscura) February 22, 2014
@OlesyaZhukovska My heart is with you!
— botter , ricardo (@RickyBotter) February 22, 2014
— Maria Danilova (@mashadanilova) February 21, 2014
— ☯ Nicole ☯ (@baby_cakesss) February 22, 2014
Zhukovska’s shooting has brought personal tragedies in what was so far a brutal political conflict sharply close to home. In another heart-wrenching story, a protester, Mariya Pohorilko, lost her fiance to a sniper's bullet on February 18 in the western city of Lviv.
Thursday, February 20 was the bloodiest day in Ukraine’s modern history, since it emerged from the Soviet Union 22 years ago, with the deaths of at least 60 people, most of them anti-government protesters. Hundreds more were injured. The deaths of the protesters have been attributed to government snipers and riot police, who also used live ammunition against the civilians.
Zhukovska has been volunteering as a nurse in the sprawling protest camp at Kiev’s Independence Square ever since the anti-government protests began in late November last year. After a brief trip to her hometown of Kremnets, 150 miles away from Kiev, she returned to the capital, unable to stay away for long when she could be helping the wounded protesters.
On the day she was shot, just hours before the incident, she had put up tweets and posts asking fellow Ukrainians to come to Kiev 'urgently' and join the protests. “We need your support. The killings started this morning and will continue until tonight,” she had posted on Twitter.
Undeterred by her brush with death, Zhukovska plans to return to Independence Square as soon as she recovers.
(With inputs from agencies.)