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Former LGBTQ Nation correspondent injured by Russian shell fragments in Ukraine

Sarah Ashton-Cirillo next to a Russian Smerch Rocket in Kharkiv, Ukraine - April 2022
Sarah Ashton-Cirillo next to a Russian Smerch Rocket in Kharkiv, Ukraine - April 2022 Photo: Sarah Ashton-Cirillo

Journalist-turned-Ukrainian soldier Sarah Ashton-Cirillo has been injured while fighting on Ukraine’s front lines.

Ashton-Cirillo, who is transgender, traveled to Ukraine last year as a war correspondent reporting for LGBTQ Nation, but her passion for the cause led her to enlist in the Ukrainian army.

She tweeted this morning that she “was hit” and has sustained permanent injuries.

“I’ve lost part of my hand and have scarring on my face,” she wrote. “We won the battle, though.”

Along with her message, she posted a video of herself being bandaged up and saying she was “fine.”

“They can’t kill us, they can’t hurt us, victory is ours. It doesn’t fu**ing matter. Why? Because we’re Ukraine, and ultimately Putin is going to be the one dead, Prigozhin is going to be the one dead. And this is a small price for liberation and for freedom. Slava Ukraini [Glory to Ukraine].”

Following her injuries, Ashton-Cirillo spoke to CBS News from the trenches as fighting continued to take place above her.

“An intense amount of fighting broke out… We’re serving at what’s known as the zero line, and at the zero line it’s our job to repel any Russian advances,” she explained. “There’s nobody between us and the Russians…We inflicted tremendous casualties on the invading forces but the reality is I was hit by shell fragments, I’ve lost part of my hand and I have significant scarring on my face.”

“However, we decided to go ahead with this interview due to the fact that with the fighting still taking place above us (I’m in the trench right now), we wanted to get the message out that Ukraine is stronger than ever.”

Ashton-Cirillo spoke about her own commander, who she said is a father, husband, and nuclear physicist.

“We have this brilliant doctor leading the charge. The entire country could be based off of my commander. Men and women who were thrust into positions that they were not expecting to have to be in ever and proceeding to defeat the self-proclaimed greatest army in the world.”

“And because of this we take our courage and we take our bravery and we take our strength from the Ukrainian people. The military just carries out the will of the Ukrainian people. That’s what we’re here for, and I personally am able to move forward and carry on, and one of the reasons I enlisted is because nothing has ever been stronger in the fight for liberty, liberation and democracy than what the Ukrainian people are doing, at least since the United States Revolution against the British Empire.”

Ashton-Cirillo arrived in the war-torn nation in early March of last year and originally set out to report from Poland on the massive refugee crisis that engulfed Europe after Russia’s invasion in February. Days later, after joining a group of returning soldiers on a train with supplies bound for Kharkiv, Ashton-Cirillo was reporting from the front lines of the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II.

With a mix of observation, interviews, and striking photographs, Ashton-Cirillo reported dozens of stories for LGBTQ Nation from Ukraine’s myriad battlefronts, including the refugee crisiswar crimes against LGBTQ+ citizens, the gay men taking up the fight, the personal toll of war on Ukraine’s citizens in hospitalshuman rights groups and aid workers working in Ukraine, and Russian propaganda ops.

Ashton-Cirillo quickly became a local legend, becoming so well known that she even endured direct threats from the Russian government.

And despite the endless challenges she has experienced – including those related to her gender identity – Ashton-Cirillo seems undeterred in her fervor for a Ukrainian victory.

“Two weeks have gone by since I’ve arrived in Europe and 10 days since I entered a nation during the throes of war,” she wrote for LGBTQ Nation last March. “In that short span, a realization settled in. I’m not the same writer. I’m not the same photographer.  I’m not the same person.”

LGBTQ Nation has reached out to Ashton-Cirillo about her recent injuries and has not yet received a response.

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