Ukraine: Doctors from the occupied city open a hospital in Kiev

Natalie Portman
By Natalie Portman 6 Min Read

A team of doctors and nurses who fled Mariupol as Russian forces closed their hospital are launching a new medical center in the Ukrainian capital to assist those displaced by war

Ukraine: Occupied city doctors open hospital in KievBy VASILISA STEPANENKO and LORI HINNANTAssociated PressThe Associated PressKYIV, Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A nurse wounded by a Russian sniper was taken away wrapped in sheets. Another, disgusted at the thought of working for the people who destroyed his house, slipped out a side door and out into the tumbledown streets of Mariupol.

Doctors lose their lab coats for civilian clothes. And one by one, the staff of the largest hospital in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine he escaped when Russian forces took control of the city centre.

Months later, about 30 staff members of Hospital No. 2 from Mariupol gathered in Kiev. Together with 30 specialists from a cardiac hospital in Kramatorsk, a Donetsk city that remains under Ukrainian control, they are opening a scaled-down version of a public hospital to help displaced Ukrainians in need of treatment.

Dmytro Gavro, a nurse who is studying to be a cardiologist, remember every child who arrives at the hospital in Mariupol during the dark days of March, when the city was under siege and shelling following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

“I remember everyone, starting with the first girl who was brought to us and ending with the last two children, who were brought to us shortly before our hospital was occupied,” Gavro said. He said he fled Mariupol because he couldn’t work for the Russians, who focused on the port city as a strategic prize and bombed into surrender for 86 days.

“I couldn’t obey those who destroyed my life,” she said. “I don’t have a single photo, not a single childhood memory. I don’t have a single photo with my family. I have no photos of my parents from my childhood. Everything burned down at the house.”

Accompanied by the only people who understand what he’s been through, Gavro, 21, sees a kind of rebirth in the new hospital in the Ukrainian capital.

“It is precisely our hospital that is proof of this, that anything is possible. Anything is possible, you can start from scratch and do this,” she said the day before the hospital took in a handful of patients.

Much of Ukraine’s medical infrastructure will have to be rebuilt from scratch. The World Health Organization has documented 715 attacks about health care in Ukraine during the war.

A study released last week from the Ukrainian Health Center found that nearly 80 percent of medical facilities in Mariupol alone were damaged or destroyedthat is, 82 of the 106 locations analyzed by the center with a combination of satellite images and testimonials.

“Nearly all of the city’s critical medical infrastructure is among the destroyed medical facilities,” the report said.

Maryna Gorbach’s Last Recollection of Hospital No. 2 was not as a nurse but as a patient. A Russian sniper’s bullet hit her in the jaw on March 11 as Russian tanks and troops surrounded the building.

By then, the hospital was treating almost exclusively civilian casualties of the war, but its corridors were filled with Mariupol residents who had nowhere else to go.

Gorbach’s two teenage daughters were in the basement of their home across town, having no idea what had happened to their mother. Two Associated Press reporters in the hospital that day witnessed the shooting, as well as the approach of Russian forces that night.

When Russian soldiers took over the entire hospital on March 13, Gorbach was half delirious in intensive care.

“They counted the patients, they counted the employees, so that no one left. They said they were going to shoot any doctor who left,” recalled Gorbach, a neurology nurse. So silently, colleagues wrapped her in sheets and drove her away in their car. It was March 16.

He never wanted to work in medicine again.

But when Gorbach finally arrived in Kiev, she found the same colleagues who had worked alongside her for so long and then saved her life, and she realized that something had healed.

“The will to live has reappeared,” he said. “We all endured it together. Therefore, here we understand each other so much from half a word, half a look. You know, Mariupol residents now understand each other just like that with words, eyes, gestures, tears.

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Hinnant contributed from Paris.

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