The wives of several Ukrainian fighters released by Russia in a prisoner swap described to CNN their disbelief and joy when they heard that their loved ones had been freed.
Alina Volovyk, speaking to CNN via WhatsApp, describes receiving a phone call from a man she didn’t initially recognize as her husband, Artem Volovyk, a Ukrainian marine who fought at the Azovstal Steel Plant earlier this year, before all of Mariupol was arrested. of Russian forces.
“At first, I didn’t understand what was going on and where he was,” Alina Volovyk recalls. “But he said, ‘Honey, I’m already in Ukraine! There has been a swap. ‘”
“I just started screaming, my hands were shaking,” she said. “Now I’m the happiest woman in the world.”
Russia on Wednesday freed 215 people from its custody, including several foreign nationals who fought for Ukraine. In return, Ukraine freed 55 people, as well as Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician and oligarch whose daughter is Vladimir Putin’s goddaughter.
Among the 215 people released by Russia are “188 heroes of Azovstal and Mariupol,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last night.
The release of fighters Azovstal and Mariupol was a major coup for Ukrainian morale, given the huge role Mariupol’s defense played in the Ukrainian psyche at the start of the war.
This is the biggest fighter release from Mariupol. During a prisoner swap in June, Russia released 144 soldiers, 95 of whom were defending the Azovstal plant.
Ruslana Volynska, whose husband Serhii “Volyna” Volynskyi, who holds command of the 36th Marine Brigade, told CNN via text message that she discovered the swap on the Internet.
“Then Serhii called himself, and I heard him. It was joy, shock, boundless happiness! All mixed feelings! I cried with happiness and couldn’t believe this day had come,” she said.
An adviser to Mariupol’s Ukrainian mayor, Petro Andriushchenko, who was forced to leave his city as Russia advanced, said on Telegram that Mariupol is “delighted that the Heroes are back on Ukrainian soil. Even in the profession! “
“I still can’t believe it,” Alina Volovyk told CNN. “It seems to me like a dream and I will wake up soon. I couldn’t sleep until 5 a.m., because the emotion was overwhelming.”
“Just two hours ago, while I was shopping, I realized that my husband was at home and started crying. The only thing I want now is to hug him as soon as possible,” she added.