“There was shelling while I was operating a girl injured by having the ceiling fall on her. I operated with a flashlight. This memory will stay with me forever.” said Volodymyr, a surgeon from Ukraine.
Volodymyr lives in a city located 30 kilometers from the Russian border. He was working on the 24th of February last year when he heard the first explosions. “My house can be seen from the windows of the hospital. In the first days, rockets flew there and all the apartments burned down. That’s why I had to live in the hospital,” Volodymyr said. We met him in the operating room, where repairs are underway. We were impressed that he readily agreed to share his story. But at certain moments we felt uneasy from what we heard.
Life During The Occupation
Doctor Volodymyr said that the hospital was constantly being shelled from tanks. Therefore, the staff was forced to transfer the patients to the basement. But they did not succeed to move all of them before another round of explosions came. “We had two disabled ladies without legs, so we had to leave them in their rooms; ‘just put them on the floor'” Volodymyr said. “When the shelling ended, we came out of the basement and started helping those who needed it.”.
“There was no light, cellular connection, or water since the 18th of March 2022. Before that, praise God, there was light. We also had a generator and water supplies. So, we set up a kitchen in the basement and there the ambulance driver was cooking soup for us. We ate, fed the patients, as well as those people who lived nearby and came to hide from the shelling,” Volodymyr said.
The Worst Moments
“At night, two guys came running barefoot through the snow, dressed only in their underpants. They were all covered in blood because a rocket fell into their house. They climbed into the hospital through the window. I sewed up their wounds with just a flashlight” Volodymyr said. And such cases were not exceptional. The doctor looked out the window and continued to recall the events of the previous year.
“There was shelling, and I was operating on a girl who was injured when the ceiling fell on her at home. I operated on her with a flashlight. After 2 days, she was recovered enough to leave the hospital and go to another city to her relatives. I admire her courage and endurance because I understand how much it hurts,” said Volodymyr.
“Unfortunately, there were cases when patients died. Once, an elderly man was brought to us, who sustained heavy injuries when he hit a landmine while he was crossing a railroad on his bicycle. We operated on him, but he still died 7 days later. The injuries were incompatible with life,” Volodymyr said regretfully. He invited me to go to the corridor. There, from the windows, we could see where the tents were. After the de-occupation, doctors were performed surgeries, because the surgical block in the hospital was completely destroyed.
Open Air Surgery
“Benefactors set up tents right on the yard of the hospital and we started conducting operations there. But it was very inconvenient because it was so cold,” Volodymyr said.
“Now I dream that all repairs will be completed as soon as possible and we will be able to do our work, which we love very much. I always say ‘we’, because we have seven more surgeons who, like me, live for their work” Volodymyr said with a smile on his face.
Medair provided shelter rehabilitation for the surgical unit of a local hospital. Windows were replaced, and the ceiling, and walls were repaired with the help of our generous donors.
Medair services in Ukraine are funded among other donors and foundations by Swiss Solidarity (CdB), UNHCR, PMU, Mission East, and Tearfund New Zealand.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed here are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organization.
Photos with optimised photos/captions/alt-texts