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Ukrainian mother shielded baby with her body in Kyiv explosion: ‘I just got her covered in time’

Olga, a 27-year-old Ukrainian woman, covered her baby with her body when their neighborhood was struck in Kyiv, the Ohmatdit Children's Hospital said March 18. (Video: Reuters)
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When a blast struck near her home in Kyiv, a mother shielded her 6-week-old baby with her body. She thought the blood flowing from her own head was her baby’s blood.

Photos of the 27-year-old Ukrainian woman, holding her baby close to her bare chest on a hospital bed under a foil blanket in the aftermath of the blast, were shared widely, highlighting the toll of Russia’s invasion on civilians in Ukraine’s capital. Kyiv remains a key target for Russia’s armed forces.

In the photos, Olga, who did not provide her last name, is near her partner. Her head is wrapped in a bandage and her face is covered with scrapes.

She described in a Reuters interview Sunday the feeling of panic after shrapnel and glass from the explosion flew around the room.

As blood flowed onto their baby, her partner, Dmytro, told her, “Olga, it’s your blood — it’s not hers.”

Olga had just awoken to give her baby Victoria a bath and feed her. She was sitting with her knees up and Victoria in her lap, covered by a blanket — “and that’s what kept the baby alive. I just got her covered in time,” she told the outlet. “And then Dmytro jumped up and covered us, too.”

The Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Kyiv wrote on social media Friday that the family was admitted that morning for injuries tied to shrapnel from the explosion near their home. Doctors treated the father’s injured leg and “performed surgery on Olga, removing multiple fragments stuck in her body,” the hospital said.

“I didn’t wake up from the explosion. I woke up from Olga’s screaming, and the sound of cracking glass as it shattered,” Dmytro told Reuters. “I didn’t even hear the explosion, because the sound of the glass was much louder.”

The Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital wrote on Instagram that Dmytro and Olga “heard heavy shelling at night — it was coming closer and closer until it finally hit the building” near their home in the morning.

“When I went outside, I saw that the shell hit a kindergarten near our house,” the hospital quoted Dmytro as saying. “There are no more ceilings, and the houses nearby don’t have windows and doors anymore. The pieces of the glass flew straight at us.”

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A doctor at Ohmatdyt, Anatoliy Tymoshenko, told Reuters that Olga’s breasts were injured and that she had “multiple deep wounds on her forehead,” but that “the baby was not hurt.”

“There’s nothing left for us to do but to stay positive, just to believe that it was the worst, the most horrible thing that could have happened in our lives,” Dmytro told Reuters.

In a separate incident nearly two weeks ago in Mariupol, a city about 500 miles southeast of Kyiv, a suspected Russian airstrike destroyed a maternity hospital, and a photo of a pregnant woman being carried out on a stretcher by emergency workers similarly highlighted the devastating human impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Associated Press later reported that the mother and her baby had died.

Pregnant mother whose photo showed tragedy of maternity hospital bombing in Ukraine dies with her baby

In a joint statement last week, the leaders of the World Health Organization and two other United Nations agencies said “more than 4,300 births have occurred in Ukraine since the start of the war and 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in the next three months,” amid repeated attacks against health-care facilities and “dangerously low” supplies of “oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications.”