After 707 days of imprisonment, the kidnapped and unlawfully convicted on fabricated charges Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko was exchanged for two Russian prisoners of war, GRU military intelligence officers Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev on 25 May 2016.
Read more: A timeline of Nadiya Savchenko’s case
Her first steps on Ukrainian soil in the Boryspil airport were made barefoot.
Nadiya Savchenko’s first words in Ukraine were an emotional apology to the mothers of those children who had not returned from the war, and to the mothers whose children are still imprisoned (below is an abridged transcript by Euromaidan Press).
“Everything will be fine! Just don’t let me become corrupted, don’t let me get spoiled. […] I will not let you down.[…] Trust me, I’m not afraid of anything!
I cannot return the dead, but I am ready to give my life on the battlefield for Ukraine, and I will do everything possible that each child who is in prison would be freed. No heroes of Ukraine should not die. It’s very convenient for them to be dead, and inconvenient for them to be alive. But we will live. The heroes will be in the Ukrainian parliament, to the envy of the Russian Duma. We will have those are worthy to be there in our parliament.
We will live a dignified life in Ukraine as a person should live! I don’t know how to do this, I tell you honestly. And I don’t promise that this will happen tomorrow. But I am ready to die each second for it to happen. And it will be so!
Thank you to those who was fighting for everyone [who is imprisoned in Russia]. You fought for everyone who will be free.
I am free! Thank you for fighting for me and for every person who is still to be liberated! If people didn’t speak up, politicians would’ve remained silent forever! Thanks to everyone who wished me well – I survived thanks to you. Thanks to everyone who wished me the worst – I survived to come back and spite you! Thanks to everyone who didn’t care – you didn’t interfere [with my return home].”
Several hours later, a press conference was held in the President’s Administration where Nadiya Savchenko gave a speech and received the Hero of Ukraine award from President Poroshenko. Below is a full transcript (translation by Euromaidan Press).
“Glory to Ukraine! Mother, thank you for having waited, sister, thank you for having waited. Thank you for fighting for me, sister. If I didn’t have such a sister, I would have been dead. Thank you, people of Ukraine and of the whole world – the people are a great power, I tell you. If the people did not speak, politicians would not act. Perhaps the essence of democracy is for the people to speak and the politicians to hear them. For the people to make themselves be heard by politicians. We will be heard because we are Ukrainians. We sacrificed many a life for this. We will achieve that our voices will never be left unheard. I thank all the boys who have survived, and who have died for our Ukraine. I am sorry that I am still alive. However, I’m always ready to go to battle for Ukraine till the victorious end.
Ukraine has the right to exist. To exist despite what anybody’s rotten soul and sick head may imagine. And we will exist. Because we are Ukrainians, we are the people, we are a nation.
I will not talk about people badly. I do not want to transfer to you my rage, my fury, my anger and my hatred. I hope that once I will have only wisdom remaining from these feelings. Or rather, that wisdom will appear out of these feelings. I do not want people to want war. I want people to want peace, but, unfortunately, peace is possible only through war. Sometimes you pass a threshold after which there is no other way.
It is good that the Minsk Agreements exist, it is very good that they will be implemented, we will do everything for them to be implemented.
First of all, I would like to pass my greetings to the Russian people and tell them not to fear. They should rise up from their knees. I understand that Russia is not the country where this is easy. However, if they want to live in harmony as we do, then they need to rise up from their knees, and we must not allow them to come here, not allow them to come further than they think they can.
We will work. I will work first of all to return each prisoner, who is still alive, for him to return alive. So that as few as possible will perish. And we will work to ensure that Ukraine would be strong, so that our people will never again be forgotten, so that Ukrainians would have the right to be Ukrainians and live in dignity on our own land. For Ukraine! Ukraine is above all! Glory to Ukraine!”
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