Heroines of the medical front. 6 stories of women who help the most vulnerable Ukrainians during the war

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How volunteers, activists, doctors and nurses save the lives of thousands of seriously ill Ukrainians during the war
20:00, 23.05.2023

Women are in the vast majority in Ukraine's medical and social security systems, as well as in civil society organisations. In war situations, they provide continuity of care, psychological support and rehabilitation assistance. Even despite their own experiences of occupation or loss.

Socportal has collected stories of volunteers, activists, doctors and nurses that illustrate different aspects of women's work during the war.

Medical volunteers play a key role in providing therapy for chronic illnesses within displaced vulnerable populations.

Heroines of the medical front. 6 stories of women who help the most vulnerable Ukrainians during the war

I'm Alla Hodak, head of BO "100% Life. Odessa". The war caught us on the train as we were skiing with my sons. I did not believe the war would start, but colleagues from the central office of 100% Life took up arms and went to defend Kiev, that was the first realisation that it was already war. I returned home to Odessa, where we started to help people affected by the war.

My team at 100% Life. Odessa" never stops working to find people with HIV.

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We also help with food kits and medical supplies. I believe Ukrainians must be a healthy nation to build our country. That is why we test everyone for HIV, including internally displaced people. We involve nurses who do HIV testing and counselling. We have also engaged family doctors so that people can sign declarations during our testing rallies and get their health checked on time. We are all geared up to win this fight against HIV and war.

Nursing staff ensure access to quality routine health care for civilians and military personnel

Heroines of the medical front. 6 stories of women who help the most vulnerable Ukrainians during the war

My name is Emilia Krinitskaya. I work as a hospital nurse at the Institute of Blood Pathology in Lviv. Our hospital treats cancer patients, many of whom suffer from lymphoma, leukaemia and myeloma. During the war our work became more difficult, especially when the shelling starts. When the sirens sound, we have to evacuate all the patients from the fifth floor to the basement. This is especially difficult for heavy patients who we have to leave on the third floor in the intensive care unit.

Due to the war, we now more often let patients go home who previously stayed overnight. As for the staff - we have enough doctors, but when the siren sounds, surgeons risk their lives to keep their patients alive.

I am also a deputy of the OTG and in this position I deal with the budget committee and the voluntary defence of the village. At the beginning of a full-scale war, we formed a voluntary defence and defended important facilities such as the railway bridge.

I do not consider going abroad because of my many responsibilities here. Our patients need help, especially now during the war.

I want to say to all medics working in war conditions that they are not themselves. We are all fighting together for peace and the health of our patients. We need to stick together, support each other and not give up. We have to keep doing our job because it is very important for our country.

Women volunteers, doctors and nurses save the lives of thousands of critically ill Ukrainians in urgent situations, ensuring the continuity of treatment and the maintenance of vital processes.

Heroines of the medical front. 6 stories of women who help the most vulnerable Ukrainians during the war

I am Angela Moiseenko, chairman of the board of Chernihivska NETWORK, and I remember that terrible day when war broke into our lives. We were prepared for it, but still the unexpectedness of events left us anxious and frightened. But we did not give up and just run away from Chernihiv. Our mission was most important and we continued to help people, especially those living with HIV.

We worked around the clock to provide antiretroviral therapy to HIV-positive people. We were willing to make any sacrifice to help those in need. I am very proud of our team and know that we did everything we could to keep those who depend on our help alive.

Our charity's premises are in the same building as the 100% Life medical centre. It is located in the city centre. And we met there every day in the middle of March 2022, together with our social workers, psychologist and our children. It was an opportunity to support each other. Thanks to our partners, our branch, the 100% Life central office, the other regional branches, we received humanitarian aid and provided people with clothes and other items. Our social workers distributed medicines to patients in every possible way: on foot, on bicycles. And even in March last year we tested for HIV through HealthLink, the largest HIV testing project.

Although these months have been very difficult and scary, I still believe that each of us must do our best to win. We have to be strong and determined so that we don't lose. This is the only way to win, and I believe we can achieve it together.

The work of women volunteers, activists, doctors and nurses contributes to strengthening public society, awakening public consciousness and activism, and building a positive image of Ukraine in the world.

Heroines of the medical front. 6 stories of women who help the most vulnerable Ukrainians during the war

I am Nia Nikel, head of the NGO Epiprosvita. Before the war, the NGO consisted of me and was engaged in information activities: promoting the legalisation of medical cannabis, advocating for the medical budget in Ukraine, fighting for the rights of doctors during the floods. I prepared for the war, went to the shooting range and took courses in medical training, stocked up on food, medicine and water. But it didn't happen as expected.

I had to move to Krakow, saving Eva from worsening epilepsy and a general physical condition, but that didn't stop me from taking my work to the next level.

From the first day of the war I decided to help other children with epilepsy. I created a request form for medication and other supplies needed by patients, and asked friends from the online platform "On the Lesson" to send it out to their subscribers asking if they needed help. That's how we got the first 2,000 applications. Then I searched for Polish foundations, which bought us some of the medicine, while others were collected bit by bit from other sources. The biggest problem was that Ukrainian manufacturers had warehouses in Gostomel, Bucha and Irpen. Unfortunately, they were destroyed and it was a huge blow to the medical system. We all remember what it was like at the beginning of the war: drugs, pharmacists and open pharmacies were almost impossible to find. We started looking for pharmacists willing to go out to work in pharmacies. We helped to open 80 additional pharmacies.

In parallel, we continuously cooperated with the organization Patients of Ukraine, which helped in finding medicines, and also connected Plast for targeted delivery to the sick.

I remember and can't even comprehend how all the volunteer organisations and businesses that joined had the strength and courage to do it all. As a result, our CBO has now hired a staff member administering 10,000 wards. We are actively applying for grants and hope to be able to organise our work so that we do not have to worry about managers' salaries and be able to buy the medicines we need, rather than stocking them.

Children with epilepsy are a constantly invisible category to both the country and society. Often their bodies are disfigured by cerebral palsy and other illnesses and they experience more pain on a daily basis than most people collect in a lifetime. My main goal is for these patients to get everything that is theirs, from medicine to education, and for us as a society to think about improving their quality of life, not trivial survival.

Women volunteers and activists act as a coordinator for collecting resources and charitable donations to ensure that assistance and resources are available to support those affected by war.

Heroines of the medical front. 6 stories of women who help the most vulnerable Ukrainians during the war

I am Tetyana Bondarchuk, chairman of the Khmelnytsky regional branch of the NGO 'Association of Ukrainian Women 'Yavorina', wife (I do not like the word widow) of Hero of Ukraine, Hero of Heavenly Hundred, Sergey Bondarchuk, who died on 20 February 2014, got an incompatible with life wound from the fire on Institutska Street in Kiev, when he was saving, carrying wounded fellow soldiers.The war started for me personally in February 2014. And volunteering became a consequence of losing a beloved man, an incurable mental pain that did not subside even for a moment.The first steps were helping the Warriors in hospitals, children - in orphanages, boarding schools, the destitute elderly - in nursing homes, searching for like-minded, not indifferent people In 2015 the NGO "Association of Ukrainian Women "Yavorina" and Khmelnitsky regional branch of the NGO, which I have the honor to head since its creation, were created and officially registered. We managed to unite patriotic women - Ukrainian women of all ages, of different professions, for whom the meaning of life is Ukraine's victory in the Russian-Ukrainian war and support for the AFU. And then there were thousands of volunteer roads, trips with the help of fighters to the war zone, Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and obligatory visits to orphanages and boarding schools.

Since 24 February 2022, following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, we decided to focus on our priority, support for the AFU. At the request of our fellow soldiers, we stopped our personal volunteer journeys and work to provide them with everything they need as much as possible. I cannot stop admiring my patriotic, hard-working, tireless sisters who do everything they can for victory. Each of them is a unique pearl of indestructibility, defiance, wisdom, mercy, caring, kindness. We weave camouflage nets, make camouflage suits for snipers and scouts, make dry borsches, soups, bake, cook various delicacies, sew flags, pack, load assistance for defenders of Ukraine. And everything prepared by volunteers, activists of the Union of Ukrainian Women "Yavorina", our friends, admirers, benefactors, is delivered to the front line by our fellow-volunteers. Frequent guests at our volunteer centre are also our warriors who return to the front line after treatment, rehabilitation or short-term leave. We pay them every attention, and traditionally we bring them and their friends presents.

Children, the elderly and people with serious illnesses are the most vulnerable part of the population in the war. Volunteers, activists, doctors and nurses take on the responsibility of protecting their rights and dignity. They help to provide for the needs of these people, adapt them to their new living conditions and organise various rehabilitation and development programmes.

Heroines of the medical front. 6 stories of women who help the most vulnerable Ukrainians during the war

My name is Svetlana Sviridenko and I am the president of the charitable organisation Ukrainian Resource Centre CF. In my many years with the organisation, I know the Donetsk region very well and how the war has changed the lives of people there.

The war was the most difficult test for our organisation, especially for our work in the Donetsk region. We went through many difficult moments, but our team was able to overcome all the challenges thanks to our strong will and determination.

We are part of USAID HealthLink, the largest HIV testing project in the country. In the Donetsk region we work in partnership with health care providers to provide HIV testing and other programs to support people with infectious diseases. This is especially important in war situations, when access to quality medical care becomes much more difficult.

In our work, we are used to constantly moving through the OOS zone and evacuating health facility staff. But no matter what, we continue to help people and do everything we can to make their lives a little better.

Believing in a better future and wanting to help, save and live is what helps us to hold on and continue working in such difficult conditions. I believe that together we can make a difference in the world, and I am proud to work with such a great team to make our world a better place for everyone.

You have to live in the here and now - these words have become an important pointer for me in our work.

We cannot wait for a better moment or better conditions, we have to work with what we have and help people now.

Our organisation focuses on helping people in the most vulnerable groups, in particular people with infectious diseases, but also women and children suffering from violence. We work to make their lives better and safer.
I am very proud that we have been able to assemble such a strong team that knows how to work in war and difficult situations. We know that our work is important, so we work persistently and purposefully to provide as much support as possible to those in need.

Although our work is far from easy, I believe we can make a difference, one project and one day at a time. And if each of us does even one good deed, together the impact will be astounding.

So I encourage everyone reading this to get involved in charitable projects and help those in need. We can all make the world a better place to live in, one day and one good deed at a time.

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Maria Grynevych

Maria Grinevich, project manager, journalist, co-author of Guidebook Sacred Mountains of the Dnieper Region, Lecture Course: Cult Topography of the Middle Dnieper Region.