A Ukrainian military paramedic who was captured during the siege of Mariupol has given birth to a healthy baby girl, just four days after her release as part of a prisoner-exchange.

31-year-old Mariana Mamonova studied at Ternopil Medical University before continuing her studies at the Kyiv Military Academy and working her way up to the rank of captain.

Stationed in Mariupol when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Mamonova found herself in the thick of battle when Russian troops besieged the city, murdered civilians, and pushed the last remaining Ukrainian fighters there down into the bunkers of the Azovstal steelworks.

During the three-month siege that followed, Mariana, who had got married one year earlier, discovered that she was pregnant, yet continued to treat injured Ukrainian troops and civilians in a makeshift hospital.

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Talking to Ukrayinska Pravda, her sister Anna said that Mariana had been in contact with family members before her capture.

“She said that she had to get them out of this hell and bring each one home,” said Anna. “Once, a 22-year-old [soldier] died in her arms. She heard his last heartbeat. She sat down and started crying because she realized that his mother was waiting for him at home alive.”

On 20 May, following a brave ”final stand” by defenders, Ukrainian troops at Mariupol were ordered to surrender, with most POWs subsequently taken by  Russian invaders to Olenivka prison in the occupied Donbas Region.

British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 15 July 2024
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British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 15 July 2024

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Immediately, fears over the health of the pregnant paramedic led to widespread calls for her release, with Nataliya Zarytska, the head of “Women of Steel”, an organisation that helps unite POWs with their relatives, saying: “How vile do you have to be to keep this girl captive and put pressure on the Ukrainian side and the world to exchange her?”

Mamonova’s mother, who only learned of her daughter’s capture after spotting her photograph in a newspaper, expressed her fears to Espreso TV that her grandchild might be taken into Russian custody.

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“Every day there is more and more anxiety,” she said. “I worry the most about the fact that if she gives birth in Russia, they will take the child away and give Russian citizenship. I am appealing to the whole world to help to return my daughter to me. She has a family, parents, and a husband. We hope that she will return at least in the last days of her pregnancy.”

Thankfully, her mother’s fears weren’t realised, and on Sep. 21, Mamonova was among the group of POWs released as part of the highly-publicized prisoner exchange. Just four days later, the paramedic finally give birth – not in a prison cell, but in a Ukrainian hospital with her loved ones at her bedside.

“A girl was indeed born, everything is fine,” Iryna Horavska, the general director of the Volyn Regional Territorial Medical Association for the Protection of Motherhood and Childhood tweeted on Sunday, Sep. 25. “The child and her mother are in the ward. The girl was born at 4:18am. The child weighs 3,255 grams, her height is 56 centimetres.”

Meanwhile, Mamonova’s sister told Suspilne TV: “Everything went well. Everyone is alive and well. Mother is feeling well. We thank everyone. The daughter was named Anya.”

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