American killed by Russia forces in Ukraine a 'helper, a peacemaker': sister says

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The sister of an America killed Wednesday morning in Ukraine by Russian forces as he waited in a bread line called him a “helper, a peacemaker,” according to a report.

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Jim Hill, 68, of Minnesota, was one of 10 civilians killed while waiting in line for food in the northeastern city of Chernihiv, Ukraine’s interior minister said. The U.S. Department of State confirmed Hill’s death but did not identify him by name.

Hill had been living in Kyiv but traveled to Chernihiv before the war broke out Feb. 24 to help his former student and partner, Iryna Teslenko, get multiple sclerosis treatment in a hospital there, according to the New York Post. Up until a few days ago, he had updated his sister Katya Hill regularly.

“After he said that he had no way to charge his phone, then I knew it was a matter of, are we going to hear he’s in Poland safe or are we going to get the news that we didn’t want to hear?” Katya Hill told CBS Pittsburgh.

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The frontline city of Chernihiv has been under heavy bombardment over the last few days, with at least 53 civilians killed in a 24-hour period, the region’s governor said. This figure could not be independently confirmed.

“When I was warning him about the dangers, he did not feel that the world would let this happen because my parents raised us to see the good in people’s hearts and that’s how he lived,” Katya Hill said.

She described her brother as “the helper, the peacemaker, looking for the good in people all the time and pushing them for their best.”

A man covers a dead body after a residential building is hit by a Russian attack in Chernihiv, Ukraine.

A man covers a dead body after a residential building is hit by a Russian attack in Chernihiv, Ukraine.
(Photo by State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

He worked as a teacher and recently had an assignment instructing police officers in Kyiv on how to collect evidence, according to CBS. 

Another sister, Cheryl Hill Gordon, was the first to publicly identify her brother as the American who had been killed. “He was waiting in a bread line with several other people when they were gunned down” by Russian forces, she wrote on Facebook. “His body was found in the street by the local police.”

In the weeks before his death, Jim Hill described in a series of harrowing Facebook posts the dire conditions in the embattled city. He posted a picture of his partner under blankets in her hospital bed.

 “Nobody in Chernihiv is safe. Indiscriminate bombing,” he wrote March 2. “Ukrainian forces hold city but are surrounded. It’s a siege here. Nobody in. Nobody out.”

As the days passed, he documented the escalating shelling and artillery fire and a desire to flee the country – but he worried it was too dangerous and that his partner was too weak to make the journey.

“It’s a living nightmare but we are alive,” Hill wrote March 11. 

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He is at the least the second U.S. citizen to be killed by Russian forces in Ukraine since the invasion, after the death of journalist and filmmaker Brent Renaud who was shot by Russian troops while reporting on the refugee crisis.

Hill is survived by two children.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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