Handziuk was 33 when a man threw sulfuric acid on her in front of her house in Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine, on July 31, 2018. She suffered burns over 30 percent of her body in the attack and succumbed to her injuries on Nov. 4 of that year.
A journalist and an official with the Kherson city council, Handziuk had been a persistent critic of corruption in Ukraine, highlighting alleged problems within the police and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
She continued to speak out from her hospital bed, telling Hromadske TV in September that though her injuries made her look bad, she thought she looked “much better than fairness and justice” in Ukraine, “because they are not treated by anybody.”
At the event in Kyiv in April, Yovanovitch said “Kateryna paid the ultimate price for her fearlessness in fighting against corruption and for her determined efforts to build a democratic Ukraine.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also honored Handziuk in Washington in March. “Even after a brutal acid attack, which ultimately claimed her life three months later, Kateryna refused to be silenced,” Pompeo said at the International Women of Courage awards ceremony. “From her hospital bed, she demanded justice, setting a powerful example for her fellow citizens.”
At the impeachment hearing on Friday, Yovanovitch said that Handziuk’s death was tragic and she had “died a very painful death.”
“We thought it was important that justice be done for Kateryna Handziuk and for others who fight corruption in Ukraine. It’s not a tabletop exercise there,” she explained. “Lives are in the balance. So we wanted to bring attention to this, we held an event, and gave her father — who, of course, is still mourning her — that award.”
Five men who organized and carried out the attack have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms up to 6½ years. But Yovanovitch warned Friday that the people who ordered the killing had not been punished.
“Those who ordered this have not yet been apprehended,” she said.