Yuliya Sidorova, the call sign Cuba, is a well-known figure among military and volunteers. Serhiy Zhadan dedicated his poem Hospitaller to the paramedic, previously one of the founders of the Ulf medical service. After a three-year break, the girl returned to military service. Now she heads the medical service of the Veteranka Women Veteran Movement and defends our country in the ranks of the combat unit Kraken.
Within the framework of the Face of Defense of Ukraine project, Rubrika spoke with Yulia about whether a person without medical education can become a paramedic, what skill is most important in her profession, and why an ordinary doctor is not suitable for work at the front.
"War is not a hospital, and a hospital is not a war"
I did not manage to communicate with Yulia right away: the girl is performing combat missions near Kharkiv and does not have much free time. We talk in the break between the departures of her medical crew. During the conversation, the paramedic laughs a lot and jokes: her cheerful nature is evident.
"I am loud and active. My comrades even said, "While Cuba was gone, we did not know what war was," Yuliya said of the reaction of her new comrades-in-arms.
Due to her combat experience, the girl could already choose which unit to join. She was eagerly awaited, where she serves now, so the attitude is appropriate.
"In 2014, I had a couple of unpleasant situations, including a failed rape attempt. I still had to show myself. Now people know and respect me. The country generally believes that war is not a place for women. But, if you do something professionally, it does not matter whether you are a woman or a man," Yulia is sure.
russia's war against Ukraine began for the future paramedic with the Revolution of Dignity:
"Before Crimea and the fighting in Donbas, there were shields and sticks on the Maidan, which people took in their hands to protect themselves from the criminal regime. Accordingly, these were the first and second phases of the war. Now there is a third, more active and brutal. The weapons used in 2014 were different from what are used now. We did not know russians could rape children and shoot civilians on the street."
While helping the victims at the Kyiv City State Administration and the Trade Union Building, Yulia learned that she was not afraid of a lot of blood and injuries. On the contrary, she becomes more efficient. It determined her occupation in the war. She considers personal qualities to be almost more important than medical knowledge.
"There are different qualifications of paramedics. We send 2-3 people to courses every weekend to try their hand at helping. In the future, I plan to create more than one crew and join them with other units. I believe it is necessary to get a simple level of training, then go to work and show up in evacuations. The most productive people should stay in the profession and study further," the paramedic is convinced.
The most important thing a paramedic should be able to do, according to Yulia, is to survive:
"The lives of other people depend on the life of a paramedic. And if they die, someone else will die because of it, because there will be no one to help."
Cuba has studied long and hard to obtain NATO certification.
"I have no medical education. But I had a great goal and a strong desire. I sat around the clock and worked hard. She studied with the best, for example, Denys Surkov, a certified instructor in medical protocols used by the NATO army. She passed exams from the first attempt, which is not always possible even for professional doctors," the girl is proud.
However, she has never wanted to connect her life with medicine.
"A war medic is not a simple doctor. Some manipulations are significantly different from those performed in hospitals. We can't take the coolest doctor and bring him to the forefront — they will not know what to do. I worked in the Avdiivka hospital for some time, but it's not my cup of tea. War is not a hospital, and a hospital is not war," Yulia emphasizes.
After returning from the war in 2019, the girl instead found herself in designing clothes.
"In February 2022, I took part in Ukrainian Fashion Week for the first time. I sewed the mini-collection with my own hands with the help of my teacher, Ukrainian designer Stanislav Vitus. She also partially bought equipment: she planned to make a shop and create her own clothing brand," says the girl.
Yulia wants to name her brand "CubaBuba" in honor of her eight-year-old dachshund Buba, which a couple of years ago was hit by a car and moves in a wheelchair.
"When the full-scale invasion began, it became clear that we needed to join the process. But I still plan to be a world-famous fashion designer," the paramedic concludes.
"We got everything: from diapers to armored vehicles"
According to Yulia, she had been expecting a full-scale war since 2014.
"russia's insidiousness at that time was completely clear to me. They began to occupy the territory and, at the same time, call us fascists. As a result, some people in Ukraine came under the influence of russian propaganda and began to blame their own, the Ukrainian army. Although Russia took the time to prepare, it still underestimated our ability to resist," the paramedic said.
On February 24, Yulia joined her friend Kateryna Pryimak in the Women Veteran Union. They met in 2015 during the first combat trip. Together, they set up a rapid response headquarters and began providing combat units, paramedics, and then civilians.
"For a while, I didn't even go to work as a paramedic. I set a goal to provide for my colleagues at the front first. Sponsors began to appear and spared no expense to help with large sums of 60,000 euros. That's how we bought everything we needed," Yulia recalls.
To date, volunteers have donated 40 cars, more than 150 bulletproof vests, gas masks, clothing for migrants, and animal feed. They did not reject anyone: they got diapers and armored vehicles. In addition to direct assistance, the rapid response headquarters is trying to cover non-volunteering needs.
"When Kyiv was surrounded, we cooked and delivered hot food. We also have a drone factory, where engineers make small kamikaze drones, large reusable drones, and individual orders for units," the girl adds.
"There are people who are born warriors"
But all this time Yulia wanted to return to the front. She did this as soon as she fully equipped herself and the team. On May 8, the newly formed Veteranka crew as part of the Kraken combat unit was already defending Ukraine in the Kharkiv region.
"We have already been involved in several serious battles, one of which happened on May 10. I was in a hurry to come here on the 9th. But, apparently, the occupiers celebrated that day," Cuba laughs.
Together with the girl, VETERANKA includes a paramedic with the call sign "Alaska" and a driver "Artist".
"The "Artist" wanted to go to war. He served when he was young, and with the beginning of the invasion, he helped a lot in the headquarters. The second girl has medical education and also took paramedic courses. She had a moment in her life that confirmed that she could cope with the war: during the occupation of Irpen, she went there to evacuate and came under fire. There was a wounded civilian to whom she was able to provide first aid. I think I was lucky with the team," Yulia Sidorova shared.
With her crew, the paramedic has already managed to go through more than one "baptism of fire" and see more than one miracle. Once "Cuba" and her colleagues managed to evacuate the military from a car engulfed in fire and, at the same time, survive under tank fire.
"The fire was above the trees. But the boys escaped and got in touch. However, they ran in different directions because there was shelling. We decided that the "Artist" was looking for them himself, and "Alaska" and I would sit at the bus stop. He came back several times and shouted that he could not find them. All this time, an enemy tank was "chasing" our car. And at one point, when the car drove off, there were several hits on the asphalt right next to the stop where we were hiding. We got lucky. As a result, we were able to assemble four of the five fighters. The last one was rescued by the commander. The boys lost their car, but the tank that was hunting us was destroyed the same day. I watched a video from a drone of how this route came under fire, and I was surprised that we were able to leave all alive," says Yulia.
The girl was also lucky to receive the wounded according to their level of training. However, she faced death at work and learned to live with it.
"The worst thing would be to understand that a person could be saved, but you did not save him. Fortunately, this did not happen to me. It's hard when someone you knew well, someone you talked to closely, dies, even if it's not in front of your eyes. But we cannot go too deep into sorrow. War is not a place for emotions," says Yulia.
Yulia is not afraid of her own death if it happens quickly. It is worse for her to be taken prisoner or lose limbs. At the same time, he does not consider his work more dangerous than other professions.
A friend of mine, with whom we fought back in 2015, told me: "I understand the military, but the medics… How can you go where everyone is fleeing from ?!" But this is a war, and everyone has their own risks under certain circumstances," says the paramedic.
"I think there are people who are born warriors. Somewhere else, they could not manifest themselves, and when the war came, they became useful here. That is why it is difficult to return to normal life after the war," the girl thinks.
According to Yulia, people need to cultivate respect for the military, but not for an idol or a hero:
"War is not like it is shown in movies or written in books. First of all, it is exhausting work. And then heroism. Here, the vast majority want to go into battle. They say: if you want to punish a fighter, tell him that he will not go to the battlefield for a couple of weeks, and he will suffer from it."
The girl does not condemn people who do not go to war and leave:
"For those at war, it is even better when people have left. I am now in Kharkiv, people are returning, and no one has the right to say they cannot be at home. But these same people do not think that traffic jams hinder, for example, during the evacuation of the wounded to the hospital. You leave Kharkiv — it's hell there, you return to the city — and there are a lot of cars."
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