“Her tears infectious. Her gratitude unbearable. The sheer disbelief and incongruity in her eyes.”

Dr Freda Newlands meeting 'Valentina' an 80 year old lady who has been forced to flee Eastern Ukraine

A month into the conflict in Ukraine – Emergency Medicine Doctor Freda Newlands sends a second heart wrenching update from the city of Drohobych in the West of the country.

“So today has been hard. Hearing stories from people about their journeys from the east of Ukraine, Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv…

I was visiting some of the schools in Drohobych which have become temporary hostels for internally displaced people. Almost half of the schools in the city have been turned into accommodation, collection points for donations and registration hubs for the 15,000 or so new-comers.

About 10,000 are being housed in private homes while the remainder in the schools. Volunteers from the community are managing these establishments, cooking, providing clothing, bedding and anything else which can go some way to making life comfortable.

UK-Med is going to provide a static and mobile primary care service and I was visiting to see what kind of medical care might be required.

Valentina’s story 

Valentina, (not her name) was in bed.  An 80-year-old woman forced to leave Dnipro to travel for three days towards the west and safety. Her husband had died, having been hit by debris from the bombing. The separation of death and now geography ultimately too painful to describe.

Her tears infectious. Her gratitude unbearable. The shear disbelief and ultimate incongruity in her eyes.

She held my hand tightly.  I have no way of understanding her pain.

Volo’s journey

Then Volo, a 16-year-old who had come to help us to move furniture in our clinic.  He, his mother and grandmother had left after witnessing their home destroyed in Kyiv.

It took five days to travel by train, overcrowded buses and car to reach Drohobych. Their initial train journey thwarted by the destruction of the railway station by Russian shells.  Volo should be at school.  He explained in English to me that he misses his father who of course has stayed in Kyiv to fight.

Our neighbour’s tales of spending eight days in an underground shelter

Our neighbours in our hostel are two female doctors from Kyiv. Telling us through tears about their eight days in an underground shelter before escaping to the relative safety of the west. They are lecturers at the medical school and still, Wi-Fi permitting, deliver education to the on-line community.

And, over dinner, as so often when medics get together, we discussed the health care system reform in Ukraine and the use of NICE and SIGN guidelines! Tragedy forgotten for a few moments while we shared medical stories.

Outside the town hall a box of soft toys lies beside a wall of sand bags, tiny children coming up one at a time to choose something to cuddle.

What will the young ones remember I wonder?”

Picture of a box of toys near sand bags for children who've been forced to flee their homes in east Ukraine.
Picture of box of toys left out for children now living in the IDP shelters in Drohobych.

The difference your help is making

We have been overwhelmed with the kindness of our supportive community – in Manchester, from the UK, and around the world. These donations are making a difference right now: enabling us to be on the ground, working to provide medical and healthcare to where it’s most needed.

The situation is rapidly unfolding. If you are able to, please support us with a gift today and help our teams provide emergency health support.

Feature image: Dumfries and Galloway Doctor Freda Newlands with ‘Valentina’ who was forced to flee from Eastern Ukraine.  Photo credit: Kirsty Porter

'Her tears infectious. Her gratitude unbearable. The shear disbelief and ultimate incongruity in her eyes.'

–  Freda, Emergency Medicine Doctor

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