It was a cold February day when a lumbering column of Russian tanks passed through the small village in eastern Ukraine where Volodymyr lived with his wife. By the rumble of their engines, Volodymyr and his neighbours learned that their country was being invaded.
“At that moment, we didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the tragedy that had occurred.” he said.
As Volodymyr spoke, the weight of his experiences lingered in the air. It’s been nearly two years since the news of Russia’s full-scale attack made headlines around the world, but as the country now approaches the second anniversary of the invasion, the war is far from over.
“And as you can see, these ruins weigh heavily on the mind.” he said, pointing to a damaged building in the distance.
“Here was the city council, and a little further down the street was a very nice school. Now all of this is gone. But we believe everything will turn around; peace will come; we will recover and rebuild.”
Volodymyr, a 64-year-old pensioner, first met UK-Med staff in what the locals call the “club” in their village in the Kharkiv oblast. It was a building that once hosted joyful events but is now the temporary location of UK-Med’s mobile medical team.
In April 2022, soon after the invasion began, UK-Med launched its first mobile clinics in Poltava and Chernivtsi to provide primary healthcare services. The initiative has since grown to nine mobile clinics in total, with four still operational in both Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia regions.
According to UNFPA, there are an estimated 7.8 million people in need of health assistance in Ukraine. The medical staff, supplies, and facilities needed to meet these staggering needs far exceed the ability of Ukraine’s overstretched health system to provide, particularly given the sustained attacks on health infrastructure. In this context, UK-Med provides a range of medical services and support in Ukraine, among them front line mobile clinics.
Mobile clinics work in areas close to front line where medical care is either non-existent or difficult to access. It is essentially a GP on wheels, staffed by a nurse, doctor, mental health counsellor and community health worker. They provide free medical consultations and laboratory tests, including electrocardiograms, blood pressure measurements, blood glucose, pregnancy tests, and urinalysis. From April 2022 to November 2023, we conducted more than 18,000 medical consultations, incorporating psychological first-aid counselling.
Searching for Help After Occupation
For ordinary Ukrainians like Volodymyr, UK-Med’s ability to bring medical staff and medicines to remote villages on the front line is invaluable. Especially for areas that are liberated, among them Volodymyr’s hometown, which spent six months under occupation.
“[At the time] we felt that everything was lost.” he said. As a result of the war and occupation, his once quiet village struggled with shortages of essential goods and services, including healthcare.
Speaking about the fear of waking up to a day without life-saving supplies Volodymyr spoke of the huge impact of UK-Med`s medical staff when they arrived, who not only provided medical assistance but also became a source of care and compassion.
“Firstly, I saw their attitude towards people, a constant smile that attracted me. Then I had a consultation with the doctor and received free medicines. For people who don’t have their own transport like the elderly or pensioners; to get to the point for help is a big challenge. Your medical workers come to the village every two weeks, offering a wide range of medical services. They know our medical history, suggest new medications, and are genuinely interested in our health.”
More than half of all older people in Ukraine have unmet medical needs. Particularly in areas that have seen heavy fighting, like Kharkiv region, access to health facilities is severely restricted. Travel times are long and those who are ill or injured must travel far to be treated at fixed health facilities. This is especially difficult for older people and those with low mobility. As a consequence, there is a higher proportion of older people in front line areas exactly because they are less able to travel. Many are also isolated from support networks, with 44% of people over 70 living alone.
In these situations, UK-Med can provide mobile medical care that can help even the most hard-to-reach areas. Through regular visits by medical professionals, they can ensure that the health needs of isolated communities are well looked after. In this way, Volodymyr’s trust in UK-Med grew with each visit by the medical team. The mobile clinic not only addressed the immediate health needs of the community, but also provided a sense of continuity and support.
“There were moments when some medicines were lacking. There are many people, and the quantity of medicines is not sufficient, or sometimes, the supplies are delayed. But we understand this. If there are no medicines today, there will be tomorrow. We don’t know what the future holds, but we hope that as long as they are able, UK-Med will not leave us in trouble.” he said.
“Each time we receive help from your doctors, we know that you will be back in two weeks, so people are more at ease about their health. We want to convey a big thank you from the entire community and the sick who receive help from UK-Med, and for your services and good deeds.”
My Biggest Dream is Peace
The war in Ukraine continues, dragging into another year, as does the suffering of thousands of innocent civilians across the country. Despite the challenging circumstances, Volodymyr and his neighbours still remain hopeful for peace.
“My biggest dream right now is peace,” he said, “after that there will be good health and other blessings. It will come, I only wish it would come sooner.”
It has been two years since Russian tanks rolled into Volodymyr’s village in Kharkiv region, but his words echoed the sentiments of a community holding on to optimism, grateful for UK-Med’s medical support, and hoping for a brighter, more peaceful future.
If you would like to support our lifesaving medical work in Ukraine, please donate today.