KIEV, Ukraine — "I am dying," Olesya Zhukovska, a 21-year-old volunteer medic, wrote on Twitter, minutes after she got shot in the neck by a sniper's bullet as deadly clashes broke out Thursday in the center of the Ukrainian capital between protesters and police.
The tweet, accompanied by a photo of her clutching her bleeding neck and being led away under fire, went viral, as social media users around the world presumed she had died and shared their grief and anger.
But Zhukovska survived.
She has become a symbol of the three-month protest of President Viktor Yanukovych's government and a movement for closer ties with the West and human rights.
"We stand for freedom, for our rights, for social independence, for democracy, for freedom of speech, for everything, for a normal life," she told the Associated Press from her hospital bed in Kiev.
Zhukovska, from a small town in western Ukraine, is a jolly paramedic with wavy dark hair and a birthmark on her right cheek. She has been volunteering as a nurse in the opposition's sprawling tent camp on the Maidan for nearly three months, sleeping in tents, in dormitories set up in several administrative buildings seized by protesters, and in the homes of sympathetic Kiev residents.
"I am apolitical, I am not member of any party. I am simply with the people," a weak and pale-looking Zhukovska, her neck bandaged, told the Associated Press. "I couldn't watch this on TV. I had to be with the people."