When she reached the top of Everest with a Ukrainian flag last week, Antonina Samoilova, 33, had tears in her eyes, she confessed on Wednesday after returning to Kathmandu.
The flag carried the motto “Stand With Ukraine” (“Support Ukraine”), a message also for his father and brother who serve in the army, defending their country from the Russian invasion.
“It’s a shame” that the world doesn’t pay more attention to Ukraine, he told AFP. “It’s not good for us Ukrainians because we need more help, we need everyone to help us,” she said.
“I already knew before the expedition that I am the only Ukrainian on Everest this year. That propelled me to go to the summit because I knew if it wasn’t me, who would it be?” she says.
When news of the Russian invasion reached her in February, Samoilova was atop Pico de Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico.
His first news of the war was given to him by his sister from a kyiv bomb shelter.
On his way back after reaching the top of Everest, he learned that the region where his father and brother had volunteered to fight was quiet. Thank God, she remembers him thinking.
And once he reached base camp, his phone vibrated with hundreds of messages of support from friends and strangers.
“Tonia, you are not only our pride, you are the pride of all Ukraine,” her father told her in a message.
For this year’s Everest spring climbing season, which runs from mid-April to the end of May, Nepal has issued 319 permits to foreign climbers, each accompanied by at least one guide.
Samoilova aspires to enter the select club of climbers who have managed to climb the Seven Summits – the highest mountains on each continent – and has already completed Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Elbrus in Europe and Vinson in Antarctica.
But first he plans to see his sister and nephew, who fled to Croatia, and then return to his father and brother in Ukraine. “I just want to hug them,” she says.