Simonova’s coffin was draped within the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag, with a cuddly toy lion on high. Her nom de guerre was “Simba,” like the principle character within the Disney cartoon “The Lion King.”
Just some days earlier than Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Simonova spoke to The Related Press in a trench within the Donbas area, the place she had served for years alongside Ukrainian troopers combating in opposition to Russian-backed separatists.
Born within the Russian metropolis of Chelyabinsk, Simonova had a eager curiosity in sports activities and excelled in each mountaineering and karate. She stated she was all the time proud to compete for Russia.
However she began feeling uncomfortable about her native nation after studying about Russia’s battle in Chechnya and its actions in Ukraine’s jap Donbas area and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Crammed with doubts that she “would ever be capable to elevate the flag of my nation, my homeland” once more, Simonova made a life-changing choice. She travelled to Ukraine to affix the battle within the Donbas on the Ukrainian facet, first as a volunteer fighter, then a paramedic and in the end as an enlisted member of the Armed Forces.
“I had this inside feeling that I might deal with it and that what I used to be doing was proper and crucial, as a result of I can’t flip a blind eye to the scenario,” she stated. “I simply had to purchase a one-way ticket. I purchased it and I left.”
Simonova stated she by no means hid her Russian origin from her colleagues and gained their belief by exhibiting her dedication to Ukraine on the battlefield. In 2017 she obtained Ukrainian citizenship.
She turned a sergeant and was given command of each infantry and artillery models.
Buddies and colleagues stated Simonova, who was single and had no kids, had not too long ago redeployed from the east to the southern Kherson area, the place Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive in opposition to Russian forces. They stated she died on Sept. 13, after her automobile hit a land mine.
“She was revered not solely as a commander, however as an individual,” stated Dmytro Karabinovskyi, her former commander and pal.