Evgenia Emerald could hear the unmistakable buzz of a drone circling lazily overhead as she lay on the ground perfectly still, buried in the deep brush of an undisclosed part of Ukraine. She quietly whispered to the reporter by her side, “It’s trying to find us.”
Emerald, as her friends call her, knows all too well what will come next if it finds her; incoming artillery. It’s happened many times before to this seasoned though perhaps unlikely, sniper.
It seems she was born to do this. As a young girl, she enjoyed dressing up in kid-sized Army uniforms, and her dad bought her a toy gun almost as big as she was.
She most certainly was comfortable handling weapons as she grew up.
In her university years, Emerald pondered a military career and excelled in a program somewhat analogous to ROTC here in the United States.
Following graduation, she chose civilian life over the armed forces and started a successful jewelry business. Yes, that is her modeling her creations in the photo below.
Emerald continued running her business right up until a few days after the Russian invasion, when the Ukrainian Army contacted her. “Evgenia, we need you,” she recalls them saying. And that’s all it took. The unit Emerald began fighting with was almost completely made up of men. “Just me and a lot of men,” she says. She also notes that they were always respectful.
During her interview, the Newsy reporter asked her how many people she had killed, and I cringed a bit. No soldier wants to be asked that question. Emerald deflected the inquiry, stating that she never talks about that. She would, however, talk about her worst day in combat. Last spring, the Russians attacked her unit in a village north of Kharkiv and killed a number of her friends. They were just down the road ahead of her, and she could see them die. Her mentor, the man who taught her to be a sniper, died in the attack. “I cried every day after that for about two months,” she said. But that did not stop her from fighting. As she says, “I had a thirst for revenge.”.
Emerald quickly changed the subject, stating that she really believed war was about life. How is what? Well, she found her husband because of war. On Instagram, of all places. Starlink has helped to keep Ukraine in touch with the rest of the world. In a way, Elon Musk was kind of their matchmaker. Her new love interest, Yevgeny, was serving in the artillery in a different part of Ukraine, and he took leave so he and Emerald could meet in person. They spent three days together, and she knew he was the one.
Just one week later after their initial meeting, Yevgeny traveled to Emerald’s unit in Zaporizhzhia to propose. She said, “yes.” Fast forward to October and a wooded area near Kharkiv. That’s where the couple was married. The date was particularly meaningful to the pair, as it was Defender’s Day, a national holiday honoring veterans and the war dead of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It was also Yevgeny’s birthday.
War can be an ironic thing. Just as she took lives on the battlefield, she is now giving one back. At the time she was married, Emerald was two months pregnant. She tells the story of how after their unit has been shelled all day and everyone was stressed out and exhausted, all she could think of was eating pizza. “It was then I suspected I was pregnant,” she says with a smile. After confirming her pregnancy, she continued to fight and live in the field. That was until her wedding day.
In a real way, the baby saved her life. Just two days after she left her unit, two men that she would have been fighting beside were killed by enemy fire.
These days Emerald is back home in Kyiv with her mother and her camo spray-painted Porsche Cayenne.
Emerald is still waiting to have her baby. She’s sleeping on a sectional couch with her mother because she’s decided to share her apartment with a family displaced by the war. Yevhenly remains with his unit.
One can only imagine the kinds of war stories she’ll have to tell her child.
A million thanks go out to reporter Jason Bellini and all the good folks at Newsy who risked their lives to help bring this story to you.