Home » Who was Savita Wagner? – DW – March 4, 2024

Who was Savita Wagner? – DW – March 4, 2024

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Who was Savita Wagner?  – DW – March 4, 2024

Savita Wagner actually never intended to fight for the military. After dropping out of her medical studies, the Bonn resident worked as a tutor for math, Latin and German, and also as a web designer. She went to Halle with her Canadian husband, a software developer, and re-enrolled at university to study mathematics.

Everything changed after she traveled in her car to Ukraine in March 2022 to provide humanitarian aid – a country she only knew from the news. A month after the Russian attack, Wagner brought urgently needed medicine and medical supplies from Lviv to Kiev.

There she met Western journalists who were looking for a driver; She drove the group over mined roads to the villages around Kiev and Chernihiv that had just been liberated from Russian occupation. Wagner told DW in an interview with DW in autumn 2022 that the team of reporters were welcomed by the locals “like liberators”: “If you just gave them a loaf of bread, they almost kissed your feet. And then we found out that torture the Russians.”

The experience made her “aggressive”: just providing humanitarian help was no longer enough for her. “To hell with treating the symptoms, let’s get rid of the cause,” she thought at the time.

In the trenches near Izjum

Savita Wagner had neither military experience nor knowledge of Ukrainian. A few semesters of medical school were still “good enough for frontline medicine.” There was heavy fighting and medics were urgently needed.

After two months of basic training, the German was transferred to the front in northeastern Ukraine in June 2022 – as an infantrywoman: in the chaos of the first months of the war, she suspects that the local superiors were not informed about her medical background.

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A soldier holds a picture of the volunteers during Savita Wagner’s funeral in KievImage: Mykola Berdnyk/DW

Wagner waited in the trenches for weeks before she was deployed as a medic: “We were on the front line around the clock. You’re in a forest like this, in the middle of nowhere. You don’t have night vision goggles or you only have one night vision goggle for five or eight people “Somewhere something bangs, then you shoot in the direction of the Russians – as suppressive fire.” Even the unit’s base was within range of Russian mortars and tanks: “In any other military they would have moved there, but the Ukrainians are tough guys, seriously.”

There was no running water, no proper toilet: “I showered in the rain, always grateful when it rained. You’re constantly sweating or freezing – there’s somehow nothing in between. In such conditions, at some point you notice that it’s drains you.”

“Not a war type”

Hard experiences for someone who grew up in sheltered circumstances in Bonn; the mother was an employee, the father a police officer. “I never watched war films, I was never a war type,” Wagner told DW. She couldn’t even think of the German words for common military terms like “mortar,” “platoon” or “trench.” She only learned the language of war in her unit in Ukraine, where many foreigners served – and for her that was English.

Farewell to Savita Wagner in KievImage: Mykola Berdnyk/DW

She was irritated by the fact that most of the foreign volunteers in Ukraine came from the USA and not from Europe: “It is extremely unlikely that Putin would drop a nuclear bomb on America. But if Ukraine lost this war, then Putin wouldn’t stop and the whole of Europe would have a huge problem.”

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Foreigners in the nationalist volunteer battalion

The “Karpatska Sitsch” battalion, in which Savita Wagner served, was founded as a volunteer unit and only later integrated into the regular army. Right from the start, this formation was more open to foreigners, often without language skills or combat experience, than other associations.

“Karpatska Sitsch” has a reputation for being staunchly nationalistic. Wagner didn’t want to hear anything about it. She only met “average Ukrainians” there – a musician from Donetsk, a textile entrepreneur: “This is not an extremist organization.” Wagner described himself as apolitical: “I don’t belong to any party. I’m in the middle – neither left nor right.”

Final rest in Kyiv

Savita Wagner was killed by artillery fire near Svatove in eastern Ukraine on January 30 while attempting to evacuate wounded Colombian soldiers. During her time at the front, she saved dozens of injured people, her comrades say.

Destruction in eastern UkraineImage: Andre Alves/Andalou/picture alliance

In February, Wagner was buried with military honors in Kiev – in the so-called “Avenue of Glory” at the military cemetery. “We thought it was right to leave her with her comrades,” her mother Ula Wagner told DW: “She was passionate about the cause. She was so committed to it that she gave up her life there. And we will travel to Kiev once a year to visit them.”

Savita Wagner’s husband Karl S. talks about the couple’s plans to live alternately in Germany and Ukraine after the war: “You know, the Ukrainians are so friendly.” He supported his wife the entire time, despite the dangers she had put herself in: “On the one hand, I wanted her to return. On the other hand, she did something she firmly believed in – she fought for the freedom of Europe, not just Ukraine . She paid with her blood for the freedom that is often taken for granted in the West.”

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