She became known as the lady in red and was one of the most hauntingly iconic images from the October 7 massacre.
A young woman, running for her life, fear etched on her face as twisted Hamas gunmen targeted the Nova rave festival in the early hours slaughtering at least 340 and taking 40 people hostage.
The last time she was seen, she wore a red shawl over her shoulders, and was surrounded by dozens of other terrified festival goers frantically running across a desert for safety, before climbing into the back of a car.
For weeks the world has wondered if she made it, whether she was alive or dead.
Now MailOnline has found her and, for the first time, Vlada Patapov – a 25-year-old Ukrainian-born mother of one – tells her story.
Vlada Patapov (left) is seen in a now-iconic picture fleeing the site of the Nova festival massacre on October 7, where Hamas gunmen opened fire on revellers, killing hundreds
MailOnline has found the woman in the red shawl and, for the first time, Vlada Patapov (pictured) – a 25-year-old Ukrainian-born mother of one – tells her story
Vlada became known as the lady in red and was one of the most hauntingly iconic images from the October 7 massacre. Here, she is seen wearing that same shawl again
Sitting on a bench by the sea at Ashdod close to where she works as a wedding planner, Vlada recounted her terrible nightmare
At points, Vlada broke down in tears as she relieved the horror of what happened on October 7
Sitting on a bench by the sea at Ashdod close to where she works as a wedding planner, Vlada recounted her terrible nightmare.
At points, she broke down in tears as she relieved the horror of what happened.
She got separated from her partner Matan for most of the day, saw friends shot and killed, and fled gunmen. It was to be almost 24 hours before she was able to finally cuddle her three-year-old daughter Romi in the safety of her home.
Vlada said: ‘I haven’t really spoken about what happened to anyone, it’s still very painful for me, I’ve shared with my family the horror of that day and I still thank God every morning that I’m still alive.
‘I sometimes feel guilty that I survived, and that others didn’t make it and what happened to me only lasted maybe 18 hours but for many the pain is still going on and I think about the hostages still in Gaza. We must not forget them.
‘The strange thing is I didn’t want to go to the festival. It was just a last-minute thing.
‘Matan got some tickets, and we went with a friend, but I had a feeling something wasn’t right when we left the Friday afternoon.
‘Romi was so quiet, she is always usually noisy running around playing with her toys but that day she was still, and I’m sure now she knew something terrible was going to happen.’
After arriving at the festival site at Re’im, just a mile and half from the border with Gaza, Vlada, Matan and her friend Mai set up camp and spent the evening talking, a chance to unwind from a busy week of wedding planning.
Vlada Patapov is seen with a friend at the Nova festival, which was attacked by Hamas terrorists in October 7, causing revellers to flee across desert fields
A picture taken by Vlada at the Nova music festival, the night before the October 7 attack
Pictures taken by Vlada on October 7 as people fled the Nova festival
Vlada captured a video early on the morning of October 7, in which rockets fired by Hamas can be seen flying through the air. These rockets signalled the beginning of the terror attack. Vlada and her partner can be seen left crouching down by a car, taking cover from the rockets (right)
Vlada said: ‘I remember the atmosphere was very strange, people were having fun and dancing but for me there was no energy, and I didn’t dance around as much as I usually do when I go to these festivals.
‘It got around 3am and I laid out on the mat to sleep.
‘I did think at the time it was weird to have a festival so close to the border with Gaza and rockets come over every now and then, but I thought the organisers must think it’s safe or they wouldn’t hold it.’
But that was not to be the case. Vlada’s slumber was suddenly interrupted at 6.30am when an air raid alarm app on her phone woke her.
She said: ‘I looked for Matan and Mai and I immediately heard shooting. It was loud and very close to us. For a few seconds I didn’t know what was happening and then Matan just screamed that we had to run for the car.
‘Missiles started coming over and the place just went crazy, the announcer said for everyone to evacuate and people just started running for their cars.
‘I think at first people thought it was just one of those routine rocket attacks from Gaza and it wasn’t until later when we looked at our phones we realised it was a proper invasion and these terrorists wanted to kill us.
‘But I don’t understand why, even now, it was just a music festival, it was peaceful, people were dancing and they came and murdered people, some of my friends, and for what?’
Vlada was among those who ran across the field and desert. She jumped into a car (pictured), but separated from her partner Matan
In footage posted to TikTok on October 7, revellers appeared to be oblivious to the impending terror that was coming towards them in the shape of the Hamas attack
The sound of gunshots and sightings of Hamas gunmen caused panic to sweep through the crowd. Hundreds of festival-goers fled into the surrounding fields and desert
Racing for her car, the trio jumped inside and sped for the exit but their way was blocked by other vehicles.
Vlada said: ‘Everyone was honking their horns, I was in the passenger seat and Matan was driving with Mai in the back and then we saw a man ahead of us dressed in a military uniform.
‘We thought it was an Israeli soldier and we would be OK, then a guy a few cars in front got out and the soldier, who I know now was a terrorist, shot him.
‘We all crouched down low, and bullets started hitting the cars around us but, I don’t know how, we didn’t seem to be hit, and Matan managed to reverse us away to try and get out the other side.
‘It was just chaos, there were abandoned cars everywhere and we managed to get to a shelter along the road, where a policeman screamed at us to keep on driving east if we wanted to stay alive.
‘Matan carried on driving, but we didn’t get far and then we just saw terrorists on cars, bikes and trucks heading towards us shooting, so we tried to drive across the field but we got stuck so we all just got out and started running for our lives.’
The image of Vlada fleeing for her life in her red shawl (seen wrapped around her shoulders during her time speaking to MailOnline) went around the world
The last time Vlada was seen, she wore her red shawl (pictured) over her shoulders, and was surrounded by dozens of other terrified festival goers frantically running across a desert for safety, before climbing into the back of a car
Blinking back tears, Vlada added: ‘This was where I got split from Matan and I didn’t know where he was.
‘I started running with Mai and we got to some trees and we were both crying.
‘We didn’t know what to do or where to go and all I could think of was Romi. I kept seeing her face and said someone has to survive for her.
‘So Mai and I started running again, and that’s when you see me in the video get into the car of my angel, a man called Yosef Ben Avu, he stopped and told us to get in and we did, all the time while shooting was going on.
‘There were eight of us in the car, it was a Kia Picanto and we were all on top of each other. I called Matan and told him I was OK and he said he had been picked up as well and he was safe.’
Vlada and Mai eventually made it to the safety of an army base at Tze’elim while Matan went to one 20 minutes away at Orim.
She said: ‘The whole thing had lasted three hours but it went by so quickly
‘The longest part was waiting at the base before I could be picked up and go home and see Romi, and I gave her the biggest hug ever.’
The image of Vlada fleeing for her life went around the world.
Vlada told MailOnline: ‘I haven’t really spoken about what happened to anyone, it’s still very painful for me, I’ve shared with my family the horror of that day and I still thank God every morning that I’m still alive’
Miraculously, Vlada was able to escape the terrorists and return home to her daughter
Vlada said of her harrowing ordeal: ‘The whole thing had lasted three hours but it went by so quickly ‘The longest part was waiting at the base before I could be picked up and go home and see Romi, and I gave her the biggest hug ever’
Last month local artist Karen Missk unveiled a painting that captured the moment, titling it ‘The Phoenix’.
Along with the image, the artists wrote:’ This is based on one of the images that day, beautifully young, full of life, people running away from pure evil savages.
‘I wish I knew her name and hope she made it out, but I really don’t know.
‘My heart broke to see them, realising that in the space of purest love and freedom, evil had arrived, but I know like a phoenix we will rise from these ashes.’