Performing surgery in the basement, a de-energized morgue, colleague shot: this is what Izium medics experienced during Russian occupation
Deadly fatigue, nervous breakdowns and joy from at least one saved life. Doctors, nurses and paramedics who went through the horrors of the occupation in Izium do not know how they will survive the winter. Those, several doctors and medical workers of this hospital, who did not leave Izium and went through the Russian occupation, try to live on, despite the terrible fatigue and the horror of what they experienced.
Signs about demining are gradually disappearing around the destroyed hospital complex, as Ukrainian de-miners are diligently clearing every piece of land. Much more time is needed to rebuild what was destroyed by Russians. But the scars on people’s souls from what they experienced during the occupation are unlikely to ever disappear. The handful of doctors, nurses and paramedics who remained in place during the Russian occupation were the only hope for the residents of Izium, as the city quickly filled with the sick and wounded. It is hard to imagine the conditions under which they had to work.
Serhyi Botsman, a paramedic, talks about what he experienced during the Russian occupation: “There was no one who wanted to come and replace us,” he says. “I’m tired. I’m so tired. No one replaced us for seven months. But how could I leave, knowing that no one would come and help?’
Two stretchers on wheels and a low bed served as operating tables. The room was so cold that “in order to inject the solutions, we had to heat them with our bodies,” he recalls.
An electrician who managed to keep the lights on with a diesel generator was as important as a surgeon in those difficult conditions.
“We’ve all been terribly depressed from time to time. We cried, cursed. We didn’t want to do anything,” says Yuryi Kuznetsov. “But with each saved person, with each saved life, we were convinced [of the correctness of the decision] to stay here… We made sure that everything was not in vain.”
In the first days of the war and during the Russian occupation of Izium, hospital employees spent four months in the basement, performing operations there. As winter approaches, they plan to return there.
Fedir Zdebsky, a dedicated pathologist with a prosthetic leg, continued to work at the hospital despite the raging war to provide a catalog of the dead.
The doctor was killed soon after. Witnesses say that he was shot by a Russian soldier from Chechnya. People heard how a soldier of the Russian Federation said to the doctor: “Your life is still in my hands.” And then he shooted. Fedir Zdebsky was 70 years old.
“He always cared. People were dying, and he was worried about their children, relatives, mothers. He always said: “This is someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s husband,” said colleague Valentina Bachanova, who witnessed the death of Fedir Zdebskyi. Sighing deeply, the woman added, “Well, of course, there’s no point in trying to prove anything to a man with a gun.”
1. A patient walks past the former surgical department of the hospital in Izium, destroyed by Russian shelling.
2. The ruined surgical department of the Izium Hospital.
3. Traumatologist Yuryi Kuznetsov (left) helps nurses transfer a patient to a bed.
4. The laboratory, which the Russian troops used as a surgical department.
5. Traumatologist Yuryi Kuznetsov had a terrible experience during the war. He saw wounds from bullets, shrapnel from bombs and shells. And all this was in conditions where it was almost impossible to provide proper medical care.
According to him, some people came with injuries, the origin of which they refused to explain, but it was obvious that it was the result of torture.
“It’s like a sniper being asked if he sees in his dreams all those people he killed. That’s how you can go crazy,” says the doctor
6. Yuryi Kuznetsov shows the basement of the hospital, which was used as a surgical ward during the shelling and occupation by Russian troops.
8. Yuri Kuznetsov gets into the car to return to his house, which was badly damaged by Russian bombs
9. The bodies of the dead are transported in plastic bags from the morgue, which remains without electricity and where there is a strong stench. Autopsies during the Russian occupation were impossible. This situation has not changed even now. Three employees are said to be on the verge of quitting because of the harsh conditions
10. Doctor Fedir Zdebsky stands among dead bodies in the morgue.
11. In this photo, Fedir Zdebsky is sitting in the morgue.
Source: Radio Svoboda