The Duchess of Sussex shared a sweet moment with a Ukrainian military medic at her first Invictus Games event of this year’s tournament.
Meghan, 42, was pictured at the Dusseldorf hotel walking alongside Yuliia Paievska (nicknamed ‘Taira’) as they attended a friends and family reception on the second evening of the week-long event.
The pair looked like old friends as Taira took Meghan’s wrist with her hand and they both beamed as the Duke of Sussex walked alongside them.
Taira, a mother-of-one, was captured by Putin’s forces last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and relentlesslt tortured during the 12 weeks she was held captive.
She tells her heartbreaking story in the fifth and final episode of Harry’s Netflix series, Heart of Invictus – and credits the tournament for helping to secure her release.
Meghan Markle and Ukrainian medic Yuliia Paievska (‘Taira’) looked like old friends as they were spotted beaming while hand-in-hand
Taira is competing in several events including powerlifting at this year’s Invictus Games.
She was tortured for three months and eventually released in the wake of global publicity at The Hague games about her situation.
A week after her release, Ms Paievska received a call from Prince Harry which she claimed ‘inspired me to continue to fight’.
‘He said that he supports Ukraine and all of us,’ she previously told The Telegraph, adding: ‘The Invictus Games family always takes care of its members.’
Taira appears in the fifth and final episode of Heart of Invictus, Harry’s Netflix series about the Games
Ms Paievska also said she was ‘very grateful’ to Harry because it was after the Invictus Games that Russian troops stopped ‘interrogating and torturing me’.
She added: ‘I think that spreading the word to the whole world influenced their decision to trade me in a prisoner exchange.’
Ms Paievska began working on the Ukrainian frontline in 2014. She was later injured during an evacuation operation.
‘Seven years on the front, I have titanium joints in my legs, my backbone suffers, and I’ve been having these traumas for a long time,’ she told the Netflix documentary, adding that test results revealed she had suffered two heart attacks. Her medical condition forced her reconsider her role as a paramedic.
She said she first heard about the Invictus Games while she was in hospital after on of her surgeries.
Appearing in the fifth episode of Heart of Invictus, which landed on streaming giant Netflix last month, Taira recalled some of her horrific experience at the hands of Russian forces and emphasised the importance of the Invictus Games in improving the lives of veterans.
She said: ‘It was a period when I was sure that I would be killed or die from torture.
‘About one month before I was released, they stopped hitting me, and that was when the Invictus Games started.
‘The Invictus Games shared my story with the whole world. [Russian troops] realised they couldn’t keep me captured anymore.’
Taira’s daughter, Ana-Sofia, also speaks in the documentary about her mother’s capture and eventual return.
She recalled barely recognising Taira when she was released by Russian forces, saying she looked ‘like a skinny boy’.
‘I hear her voice, and I realise this is my mum,; Ana-Sofia recalled.
‘We were all standing in silence for a couple of minutes, hugging each other.’