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Former Russian athlete serving in the Ukrainian Army killed in Donetsk Oblast

Olha Simonova former Russian citizen
Photo: Nazar Ilnytskyi/Novynarnia
Former Russian athlete serving in the Ukrainian Army killed in Donetsk Oblast
Article by: Christine Chraibi
In 2014, Olha “Simba” Simonova left Russia and came to Ukraine to fight in the Donbas as a volunteer; she extended her military contract remained on the front line, fighting to the very end.

In an interview in 2018, she explained her reasons: “I wanted to get to the truth, and the truth was sad. How did all this become possible? Back then, we didn’t know about the wars in Georgia or Chechnya. I learned the truth about these wars here, in Ukraine. It was an eye-opener… Because before, I used to stand proudly on a pedestal with my flag above me, but now, I’m ashamed of my government and my country.”

Olha Simonova, call sign “Simba”, from Cheliabinsk, Russian Federation was killed in a landmine explosion during a combat mission near Soledar, Donetsk Oblast. She served as commander of an IFV in the 24th King Danylo Separate Mechanized Brigade. She was only 34 years old.

Olha renounced her Russian citizenship and in 2017 she was the first foreign contract soldier serving in the Ukrainian Armed Forces to receive Ukrainian citizenship.

At the end of 2018, she completed combat training courses at the Desna military grounds, and was promoted from senior soldier to the rank of sergeant and IFV commander.

Photo: FB Olha Simonova/Glory Grand

Before coming to Ukraine, Olia worked as an engineer in Cheliabinsk. She was actively engaged in sports – from karate and jiu-jitsu to rock climbing, and even represented her country in international competitions. She never expressed an interest in politics and rarely watched TV. But, in 2014, when she learned about the Russian invasion of Crimea and the war in Donbas, she packed her belongings and bought a one-way ticket to Kyiv.

“Why did I come to Ukraine? If you know the truth, you can’t do otherwise. After all, it’s almost impossible and very dangerous to do anything in Russia. There’s no point in protesting because sooner or later you’ll be imprisoned. And it’s wrong to just sit back and pretend that you don’t care about what’s happening. My family knew I was going, but they didn’t know why or for how long. We stopped communicating when one of my relatives asked me: “So, you don’t intend to come back?” I said no, never.  Now, I don’t talk to anyone there.” said Olia in an interview with Novynarnia in 2018.

Olha Simonova
Photo: Olha Simonova/Glory Grand FB

At the beginning of 2015, Olia joined a volunteer unit of paramedics, but realized that “there would be fewer wounded if we could just eliminate our enemies”.

First, she fought in a volunteer unit, and in 2016 signed a three-year contract with the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Contracts for foreign fighters appeared at that time.

Renouncing her Russian citizenship was an act of principle. Olia sent all her documents and her passport to Russia by registered mail. In fact, she decided to break all ties with the Russian Federation.

“I tried to get Ukrainian citizenship back in 2015. I submitted all the required docs at the end of 2016. You know, it’s quite difficult to get Ukrainian citizenship. It’s like banging your head against the wall. The only way out is to collect a complete package of documents and get good advice from lawyers and volunteers.

I got my Ukrainian citizenship in the summer of 2017. Actually, the decree was signed back in March 2017, but they didn’t inform me. Well, I was overjoyed… phew, finally!” said Olia.

Olia extended her contract with the Armed Forces and learned Ukrainian, which she spoke fluently.

Olha Simonova
Photo: Olha Simonova/Glory Grand FB

When Russian forces invaded Ukraine on 24 February, Olia was deployed to Luhansk Oblast, where she took part in the fiercest battles. Later her unit was transferred to the south and then back to eastern Ukraine. But, even in the most hellish days, she took care of animals, rescued them and took them out of the combat zones in the Donbas.

Olha Simonova
Photo: Olha Simonova/Glory Grand FB

“The war probably gives a meaning to life. I’m probably one of those people who like to fight.

As for so-called peace negotiations, I believe they’ll only lead to loss and defeat. So much has happened, so much blood has been spilled, but from the very beginning – Ukraine has taken the right stance. How can you negotiate in this situation? We must fight to the end. We must win.” stated Olha firmly in 2018.

And she did… Olha Simonova followed this principle to the end.

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