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10.20.11

Gaddafi's Ukrainian Nurse: I'm in Mourning

Gaddafi’s former Ukrainian nurse tells The Daily Beast’s Anna Nemtsova she’s devastated by his death and considers him a “brave hero.” The nurse, Oksana Balinskaya, went to work for the Libyan leader at the age of 21 and cared for him until last February, when she returned to Ukraine. Balinskaya says she has “only warm feelings for him” and is sad “nobody was next to him on his last day.” Plus, read Balinskaya’s first person Newsweek story from earlier this year, “My Years as Gaddafi’s Nurse," where she describes her time working for the eccentric leader—including details of the luxurious life he provided for her in Tripoli, his strange obsession with changing his clothes—and why she called him “Papik.”

I reached Oksana earlier today by phone and she told me she had learned of Gaddafi’s death from the Internet.  She sounded very upset. We spoke for a few minutes before someone—possibly her husband?—told her to hang up the phone and we were cut off. Here is what she told me:

"My family and I are in deep mourning for him. Even my parents, who
have never met him, feel terribly sorry that he is dead. As I said he
would, he did stay in Libya to his end. I consider him a brave hero.
He did not escape the country, but stayed to die on his own land in
his hometown of Sirte. All these months, I hoped that he would survive.
My friends, Ukrainian nurses who worked for him, are all back in
Ukraine—nobody was next to him on his last day. Why should we hate
him or think of him as tyrant, if he gave us jobs and paid us well? We
all have only warm feelings for him."

Balinskaya said that she wanted to return to her life in Libya. "No
matter with Gaddafi or without, life in Libya is incomparably more
comfortable for us than here in Ukraine. I cannot wait for the war to
end, so we could go back home to Tripoli."