After nearly escaping death when the Russian military began their invasion of Ukraine, Iuliia Mendel recounts the moment she watched her home country become unrecognizable in real time.
Mendel, a Ukrainian journalist and former press secretary to President Volloydymer Zelenskyy, spoke to CTV’s Your Morning about her book “The Fight for our Lives,” detailing her experience before Russia’s invasion and her attempt to stay and live. to help defend his country.
“The world around us was falling apart,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “Everything we achieved was threatened, we understood that we were fighting for our very existence.”
In March, Mendel says she heard bombs everywhere as she traveled from the western city of Lviv to Kyiv in March, where she believes she would not have survived had the circumstances been different.
“The Russians shelled the part where we were and if they were in a different angle with their shelling, I don’t think I [would] sitting here,” she said.
Mendel says in another incident that she traveled to the town of Vinnytsia where locals told her that Russian missiles had attacked them 30 minutes before she arrived, leaving the town in flames.
Witnessing the damage prompted her and her current husband to stay to help, she said. Although many lives have been lost, she wants people to celebrate those who have chosen to volunteer and fight to protect their community.
“We are truly proud of our army and our volunteers who sacrificed their lives to stand on the battlefield and to support our army to defend what we have achieved for democracy and for our freedom,” he said. she declared.
At 32, Mendel won a nationwide competition against 4,000 other applicants to become Zelenskyy’s press secretary in 2019. Mendel says she believes Zelenskyy hired her because they shared the same vision for their country and could relate to his upbringing similar to his. poor provincial town.
Mendel, who served in his office until 2021, says while many criticized Zelenskyy in his early days in power, she thinks the public now sees him as a leader who is not afraid to step onto a field of battle.
“When I learned that he had refused to leave Ukraine when his life and that of his family were threatened, I was not surprised,” she said. “I had traveled with him to Donbass, which Russia invaded in 2014 and saw how he went to bombing areas just to stay with the soldiers and show that their leader was with them.”