Ukraine Medics Face Rocket Attacks with Defiance

Ksenja is a 24 year-old pediatric doctor in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. She told Human Rights First that after a brief respite in the west of the country, today she’s on her way back to resume her work even though Kyiv is being bombed and Russian forces have attacked medical facilities across the country.

Ksenja and other Human Rights Defenders in Ukraine are risking their lives to protect the rights of others, and she understands the dangers. “I don’t know how long I’ll have to stay working there,” she said. “As long as it takes. Babies are being born every day, that doesn’t stop because there’s a war on. Mothers need medical facilities and sick children need help. It’s my job and I want to do it, for the children and for the country.”

She explained that all the hospital beds and equipment have been moved into the basement and away from all windows in an effort to protect them from bombardments. She says she will have to live in the hospital because the journey across the city between her home and work is too dangerous these days.

“I’ll be sleeping and working and eating and everything in the hospital.” Although her specialty is in pediatric medicine, she says in the last few months all doctors in Ukraine were trained in treating combat injuries in readiness for the invasion.

She says that among medics, fear is greater now since the attack on the maternity hospital in the city of Mariupol on March 9 killed three people. The World Health Organization says it has confirmed at least 43 attacks on healthcare, including hospitals, patients, and other medical  infrastructure, since the war began.

“Nowhere’s safe, we know that,” she says. “It seems there is no respect for medical neutrality of the Geneva conventions, but we have to do our work, we have to treat people. Some women can be transferred to other, less dangerous places, but for some they have to stay in Kyiv, and my colleagues and myself have to be there for them.”

How does she deal with the constant pressure and stress of working in a city being bombed? She smiles: “No alcohol but seven coffees a day.”

It’s a big ask of medics like Ksenja, because there is no knowing how long the attacks will continue, or if they will intensify. Meanwhile, the demand for medical attention in the city is likely to increase in the short term.

She lists a dozen countries that have sent medical supplies or personnel. “There are a lot of international volunteers, there is great solidarity among medics all over the world. We’re pretty well supplied now too so far. We knew an invasion might come so we stocked up as much as we could in the weeks before with the equipment and medicine we might need.”

Every day there are regular supplies coming across the border from Poland, and volunteers in Ukraine make the dangerous drives to cities under attack to deliver them.

Ksenja describes her work as difficult but rewarding. “When you are with the children in hospital, treating them, you see even in war there is daytime as well as night, because they’re so sunny.”

She’s going to keep in contact with us, update us on her work and conditions in the hospital, and let us know if we can help.

Ksenja is not her real name. She asked me not to use her real name because she has told her mother she will not go back to the dangers of Kyiv and is safe in the countryside, and doesn’t want to be identified.



  • Brian Dooley

Published on March 20, 2022


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