CHERNIHIV, Ukraine — An American born in Minnesota was killed in Ukraine, his family said Thursday.
James “Jimmy” Hill was living in Kyiv, but was in a hospital in Chernihiv, a city about two hours north of Kyiv. Hill was there along with his partner, Ira, as she was set to be treated at the Chernihiv hospital to stabilize her multiple sclerosis.
Hill's sister, Katya Hill, told KARE 11's Sharon Yoo that the family received confirmation of Jimmy's death through the U.S. Embassy. The State Department confirmed Thursday that an American was killed by Russian shelling in Chernihiv on March 17th, but did not confirm the person's identity.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar released a statement in response to Jim's death:
"This is a tragedy. My deepest sympathies go out to Jim’s family and loved ones. This completely senseless, unprovoked invasion has taken another innocent life, and this hits so close to home," Klobuchar said. "Jim’s friends in Minnesota have described Jim as a dreamer and a helper - a good person gone too soon. I share in their heartbreak."
"The death of Jimmy Hill is horrible news and my thoughts are with Jimmy and his family in Minnesota," added Klobuchar's senate colleague Tina Smith. "Putin’s unprovoked war in Ukraine is causing destruction and loss of life and is taking a human toll the world over.”
For the last two weeks, Hill, who had a degree in social work and lectured about forensic psychology at universities in Ukraine and across Europe, described the conditions inside the Chernihiv hospital in daily Facebook posts and provided updates on Russian bombings and attacks.
“Center of city has been on fire for 3-4 hours. I can see an orange sky over city. They are trying to terrorize the population here. Most people in Hospital to tired or sick to go in cold basement bunker,” he wrote on March 3.
Over the next two weeks, Hill’s posts shared news of food shortages and power outages, air raids and bombings. He described the sound of machine gun fire outside the hospital.
Hill shared his last Facebook posts on March 15.
“Intense bombing! [S]till alive. Limited food. Room very cold. [I]ra in intensive care.”
"Not allowed to take photos. Spies throughout city[.] Bombing has intensified[.] [No way] out."
Katya explained that Hill moved to Kyiv in the 1990s, and recently would spend half the year in the United States and the other half in Ukraine, taking various teaching positions in order to spend time with and care for Ira.
Hill, Ira and Ira's mother were in the Chernihiv hospital for MS treatment several days before Russia started bombing in city. Once the attacks started, the three remained stuck inside the hospital, sometimes without power, gas or running water. Katya said she doesn't know Ira's condition.
“He really loved her so deeply," Katya said. "In this world it’s hard to find your soulmate, and that’s how he referred to Ira. As his soulmate.”
Because of the ongoing war, Katya said she doesn't anticipate being able to retrieve her brother's body, but hopes to get confirmation that he was laid to rest in some way. Katya said she'd like to do something in Minnesota to honor Jimmy's memory and their family roots; both of her parents are buried in Fort Snelling.
A post shared on the messaging app Telegram announced the death of an American Thursday and included a picture of Hill’s United States passport. The caption, translated from Russian to English, said “Another U.S. citizen James Whitney Hill died in Chernihiv due to artillery fire from Russians.” The message came from the account of Pravda Gerashchenko, who claims to be a Ukrainian government advisor. Several videos and photos shared on Twitter have been sourced back to Gerashchenko.
More updates on the way in Ukraine
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