Tens of thousands of people have lost their lives in the war that has been going on since February. Ukrainian women medics are on the front line, fighting to save people in this life-threatening market, disregarding their own lives. Their story…
As the war in Ukraine is in full swing, hundreds of weapons are turned against the “enemy” almost every day in pursuit of geopolitical goals. Dozens of women doctors and paramedics are working hard to save the lives of their people.
If you wish, let’s witness the faith-laden stories of women doctors in this war where international law is ignored and doctors, nurses and civilian patients are left to die…
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EVERY DAY THEY WAIT FOR THE ‘INJURED’ ANNOUNCEMENT
Alina Mykhailova, a paramedic in the Ukrainian army, was the only woman who retreated to her corner to rest after days of fighting. So accustomed to the chaos of the long war at the front that even the sounds of guided missiles falling on the surrounding area were not enough to wake Mykhailova up.
Waiting for the radio announcement of “wounded” at the medical center behind the front line, Mykhailova was getting ready to rush to the soldiers who were shouting for a doctor. The unit had suffered heavy casualties after a Russian missile hit and there were many wounded and dead.
Mykhailova rushed to the scene and, amidst an atmosphere of mutilated bodies and open wounds, she quickly set about helping a few soldiers. Loaded into the back of a large flatbed truck converted into a makeshift ambulance, the soldiers were taken straight to the medical center.
‘I CHOSE TO STAY AND HELP, NOT EMIGRATE’
Trying to survive with shrapnel lodged in their bodies, the soldiers drew strength from Mykhailova, begging her to heal them. The young woman could only intervene with bandages.
Mykhailova’s life, like millions of other Ukrainians, changed very quickly. The young woman, a vegetarian living in Kiev and studying political science, turned into a frontline soldier fighting to save lives when the war broke out.
“In this life, I was just someone who liked snowboarding,” Mykhailova said, and after Russia’s advance on the eastern front, she chose to stay and help, not emigrate to another country. “I decided this is where I needed to be,” says the young woman, who works in a frontline hospital in eastern Ukraine.
22 PERCENT OF THE UKRAINIAN ARMY IS MADE UP OF WOMEN
Due to the heavy attacks of the Russian army, which has stepped up its operations in the Donbas region in recent months, the Ukrainian army suffers hundreds of casualties almost every day. At the front where men are protecting the defense positions, women are actively working in the rear services.
It is the volunteers of the Ukrainian Women Veterans Movement who maintain order behind the front lines. With a growing network of volunteers since February, women make up about 22 percent of the Ukrainian army. Kateryna Pryimak, one of the founders of this volunteer movement, said: “Since February, the number of women volunteers has been growing, and this gives us strength.”
In 2016, Hanna Khurava, who completed her studies and became a doctor, also pointed to the growing number of women fighting on the front lines, noting that women are active throughout the army.
“Women are repairing machinery; they are taking care of wounded soldiers at the front as medics, and I’m also starting to see a lot of women on active duty in the army. There is also a significant increase in the number of female commanders, many of whom are moving to the front in full combat gear.”
‘IF YOU TRY TO STOP ME, I’LL GET ON ANOTHER BUS AND GO!’
For those caught up in the grueling war, it is already becoming a commonplace… The number of people who meet and marry on the front line is quite high. A few weeks before Russian tanks broke through, Khurava, a doctor, met a soldier driving an ambulance and married him shortly afterward.
“Isn’t this a beautiful place for a honeymoon?” Khurava told The Washington Post, after bringing soldiers wounded at the front to the hospital in Kramatorsk.
The young woman says that after they got married, her husband told her, “I don’t want you to take risks anymore,” a request she flatly refused. Khurava told her husband that nothing had changed and said, “If you are going on the first bus, I will take a different bus.”
Having convinced his wife that they would not leave the front, Khurava now stands guard in a village west of Lysychansk. They are waiting to come to the rescue of the wounded in case of an attack.
WHY DID THE SOLDIERS TRY TO STOP THE FEMALE MEDICS?
This silent wait is interrupted by Ukrainian artillery batteries. As the Ukrainian army’s BM-21 Grad artillery battery just outside the village opens fire, Khurava pulls on his hardened body armor.
“When we fire the Grad artillery, the Russians retaliate where the fire starts, so we need to get away from here quickly,” the young doctor says, and 20 minutes later, he rushes to the side of the soldiers who have been wounded by the artillery shelling and are screaming in pain.
Khurava uses all his skills to treat the wounds of the soldiers wounded by the artillery shelling while carrying them to the ambulance. Khurava takes care of the slightly wounded soldiers at the site of the attack, bandages their wounds and asks them to come to the hospital.
The female paramedics, who are undauntedly taking care of the wounded in the line of fire, say that at first they were prevented from working by the soldiers fighting on the front line. Soldiers who saw the female paramedics in front of them, they thought of them as their sisters, daughters and even the wives they had left behind, and asked them to leave the battlefield quickly.
The young female paramedics ignored this pressure and continued to save soldiers’ lives.
‘I COULDN’T TELL MY FAMILY THAT I SERVED AT THE FRONT’
Liana Nigoyan, a 24-year-old paramedic from Bakhmut in Donetsk, has been deployed to the frontline despite her family’s objections. “Right now I am lying to my family about where I am,” says the young paramedic, before adding:
“I told them I work in a good hospital in Kiev, they know me in the capital.”
Nigoyan started working as a nurse in a clinic in Dnipro when the war began. In 2016, she enlisted in the army as a volunteer paramedic, and has been working in the conflict zone for nearly seven years.
Nigoyan says that when she volunteered, she was very afraid that her father, who has a heart disease, would find out that she was working on the frontline, and describes her experience in the face of the first attack she encountered on the frontline as follows:
“It was the first time I was caught in a shelling; after a moment everything turned white and my surroundings became silent. Then I remember someone came to me and told me to take eight deep breaths.”
‘THE FACT THAT I AM CONFIDENT REASSURES THEM’
Stating that he had great difficulties when he first started his duty, Nigoyan says that he cannot forget the first patient he intervened. “It was the first time I intervened in a soldier who had been shot by a sniper. I remember being very scared, and I can never forget the wounded soldier dying in my arms on the way to the hospital in an ambulance,” the young paramedic says about that first moment when he met the real face of war.
But before he could get over the shock, he rushed to the aid of another wounded soldier, and when he saved the life of a soldier who had shrapnel lodged in his body, Nigoyan says he realized the importance of his work.
Explaining that the soldiers started to trust him after many incidents that followed, Nigoyan said, “If I have to stand firm against difficult conditions, I will do so. Being confident and making decisive interventions makes the soldiers trust me; it puts them at ease.”
‘I TOOK CARE OF THE WOUNDED SOLDIERS AS IF THEY WERE THEIR MOTHERS’
Irina Pukas, a doctor in the Ukrainian army for 13 years, says she is torn between being a doctor and a parent when faced with soldiers younger than her own sons. Pukas, who has witnessed the suffering caused by the war, struggles to bring the young soldiers back to life with intense sadness.
A few weeks ago, Pukas, 48, said he took care of soldiers who were wounded by heavy Russian bombardment and brought to the hospital, “They asked me to take care of them. These children, who looked at me with frightened eyes and were in great pain because of their wounds, did not want me to take off their helmets and camouflage. I comforted them both as a mother and as a doctor,” she says:
“Being a mother helped me treat them. I also knew what they were going through because I was once under heavy shelling myself.”
‘WE ARE AT WAR BUT LOVE DOES NOT FADE…’
As we mentioned at the beginning, war is becoming more and more commonplace. And even at the height of the war, people make the most of short moments to be happy. Maria Budnichenko, 20, met her colleague at the front after the war started.
After a brief ceasefire was declared last week, Budnichenko’s boyfriend came to the hospital in Sloviansk and proposed to the young woman. When Budnichenko saw her boyfriend on one knee with flowers in his hands, the wounded soldiers waiting in front of the hospital started cheering in unison.
Budnichenko, whose happiness was evident in his eyes after the proposal, said, “We are in a war, but love does not end; it continues…”
‘SHE SURVIVED BECAUSE OF YOU’
In an environment where happiness is cut short, doctors rush to help the wounded. Young paramedic Alina Mykhailova rushes to help the wounded soldiers. At the hospital, doctors are in the operating room waiting for Mykhailova to bring the wounded to the hospital.
After her first intervention to the wounded soldiers at the front, the young woman makes sure that all of them are safely taken into surgery.
When the doctor coming out of the operating room after hours of operation shouted, “Who covered this man’s wound with so many cloths?”, Mykhailova timidly raised her hand. She had thought that her efforts to keep a person alive had had a bad outcome.
The doctor looked at his young colleague and said, “You did a good job. She survived because you stopped the blood loss,” the young woman’s eyes misted over.