Idahoan killed in Ukraine tried to feed partner in hospital

Friends and loved ones of an Idahoan who died in Ukraine are mourning his loss and awaiting information about his partner.

James Whitney Hill, 68, of Idaho Falls, was killed while trying to get food for himself, his partner and other very sick patients at Chernihiv Regional Hospital in the town of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, his sister, Cheryl Gordon, told The Washington Post. a meeting.

Gordon said she told her brother to “get the hell out of there” when the invasion seemed inevitable, but he said he couldn’t.

Instead, Hill and her partner, Iryna Teslenko, walked at least four hours to get to the hospital so she could receive treatment for her progressive multiple sclerosis. Somewhere along the way, Teslenko contracted pneumonia, according to Gordon, extending their stay in hospital as the country they both loved burned outside.

“She was the only reason he was still there,” Gordon said.

Hill has shared her experiences stuck in a hospital since the Russian invasion through regular Facebook posts.

“We could try an escape tomorrow but Ira’s mother won’t. Every day people are killed trying to escape. But bombs fall here at night. Risk anyway,” he wrote in a post on Monday.

“Intense bombardments! still alive. Limited food. Very cold room. will go to intensive care, ”he posted the next day.

News of Hill’s death spread on social media when Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko posted a photo of the American’s passport on his verified Telegram account, sending shock waves among those who knew him and virtual RIP messages to his Facebook account.

The State Department sent a form letter to one of Hill’s brothers, who then forwarded it to Gordon, 63, she said.

“I don’t know what to do with it,” she said. “It says ‘your relative who died overseas.’ It says “abroad!” It doesn’t even say Ukraine.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed in remarks with State Department reporters in Washington that “an American citizen was killed,” but he did not elaborate.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family for their loss,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Hill was an English and social psychology teacher and Airbnb host who enjoyed sharing his time with family members he loved in the United States and the love of his life in Ukraine, according to Gordon.

Hill likely inherited their father’s wanderlust and education, Gordon said.

A former student in Ukraine says Hill was a ‘big fan’ of the country

He was the first American teacher Ekaterina Tchaikovskaya had met when she was one of his students 10 years ago. She said she remembered him being part of a group of expats who organized language or social science classes for Ukrainians that she found very interesting.

Tchaikovskaya and Hill stayed in touch through Facebook, and she followed his account to make sure he was okay as Russian forces encroached on Ukraine.

“He was very nice. He loved what he was doing. He was very open-minded,” she said. “He was a big fan of Ukraine, our culture and our traditions.”

He grew up in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, with four siblings, where he spent his time fishing, pranking his family, and enjoying “pajama walks” orchestrated by his father, during which the family piled into the car and headed towards a stranger. just-for-fun destination, Gordon said.

Hill, better known as “Jimmy” to Gordon, was a warm older brother with a sense of humor that always tickles Gordon with glee.

Whenever he was in the United States, he spent time with Gordon and her husband at their home in Albuquerque. They were just hanging out when he wasn’t fixing up one of his Airbnb properties near Yellowstone National Park.

In an earlier part of his life, he had lived in Albuquerque to see the birth of his two sons before calling other places, such as St. Paul, Minnesota; Moses Lake, Washington;, and the Idaho Falls house.

A high school friend and Hill exchanged letters

Before becoming a teacher, mentor and father, Karin Moseley met a shy and quiet child 40 years ago. Communication was not present for many years after they both graduated from high school. There were no Facebook messengers or cellphones to check on each other, but Moseley always believed the two would stick together despite the silence between them. She was right.

She still has the first letter he sent her on “strange paper” that had arrived from India and in her mailbox. The two would continue to communicate by snail mail as Hill traveled across Europe, teaching and making new friends while keeping scribbled notes for an old one.

The last time they spent time together was in October when he invited her to his Airbnb homes in Idaho and Montana, devoting two whole weeks to catching up, hiking and checking the list of activities Moseley wanted to do.

“We talked about the good old days. We talked about family. We talked about things that touched us as kids that we still think about,” she said.

Hill loved being in his surroundings, and Moseley could see the toll that being locked up in a hospital in Ukraine took on him as he watched Teslenko remain weak after his battle with pneumonia and multiple sclerosis.

“Jimmy was looking for a miracle for her. He was very determined to find someone somewhere to stop the progression of MS,” Moseley said. “If there is a blessing, he won’t see Iryna die. As a friend, I wasn’t sure he would be able to handle this.

John Hudson of The Washington Post contributed.

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