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Sister of Eveleth native killed in Ukraine speaks out

Jimmy Hill headed to check on his wife in Chernihiv hospital before being killed by a Russian bomb.

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Jimmy Hill seen posing next to a light post during his trip to Ukraine.
Contributed / Katya Hill
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DULUTH — Jimmy Hill, 68, was killed in Ukraine earlier this week by a Russian bomb, not gunned down in a bread line, according to U.S. State Department information passed on by his sister Katya.

Katya Hill discussed what she knew about the incident and her brother during a Zoom teleconference on Saturday.

Jimmy, an Eveleth native, searched for buses to help people out of Chernihiv in a safe corridor. After seeing over 1,000 people in line for these buses, he decided to turn back and check on his wife, Irina Teslenko, who was in the hospital with multiple sclerosis.

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Jimmy Hill seen sitting by his wife's beside, Irina Teslenko, after bombing began in Ukraine.
Contributed / Katya Hill

Before he could reach her, a Russian bomb was dropped into the civilian area near the Chernihiv hospital, killing Jimmy. Katya said a Ukrainian he was near lost hearing in one ear from the blast.

“When I was talking to him during his last visit to Ukraine, he said 'I don’t know what I would do if I lost her, I have to do everything I can to try to stop the progression of MS,' so I can’t explain the connection between two human beings that fall in love and have that strong bond for one another. My brother certainly sacrificed his life for her,” Katya said. “It’s a beautiful love story but unfortunately, it has a tragic ending.”

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The U.S. State Department does not know where his body is now, Katya said.

Jimmy went to Ukraine with Teslenko to pursue long-term treatment for her MS. Since the conflict began three weeks ago, he has been posting updates on Facebook about how he and Irina, who he calls Ira, were doing.

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Irina Teslenko seen in the Chernihiv hospital with multiple sclerosis after bombing started in Ukraine.
Contributed / Katya Hill

He reported how bombings were getting closer and more intense, Katya said. “When I wake up, the first thing is check and his message would be, ‘Made it through the night. Still alive.’”

During his time in Ukraine, Katya said Jimmy was creating escape plans for himself, his wife, and Ukrainians. He has Airbnb properties in Idaho and Montana and was figuring out how many families he could place in them. To many, Jimmy was like a local hero, Katya said.

“He went out to stand in store in bread lines with Ukrainians, he brought back cookies and chocolate for nurses, he found a woman with four young children living near the hospital to share food, use her internet when it was working and find a way out of Chernihiv for her and others,” Katya said.

Jimmy remained positive in a gruesome environment, Katya said. During their last phone call, she could hear bombs going off in the background.

Teslenko and her mother are still hospitalized, Katya said, and Teslenko’s mother said she does not want to tell her Jimmy has died yet.

“She will need an ambulance. They are trying to figure out how to get out but there’s word that people leaving Chernihiv are getting killed on the road. Her mother wants to take Ira back to their hometown southeast of Kyiv, but I’m not sure it’s safe anywhere,” Katya said.

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Jimmy Hill was caring for his partner with multiple sclerosis.

Abigael Smith is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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