August 24, 2022
The world has watched while Ukraine has fallen under attack and occupation. Bombs falling, buildings left in rubble, families fleeing.
The conflict is very close and personal for two of our Medicine Hat Regional Hospital staff who have family and friends currently struggling in the war and strife in Ukraine.
Inga works in registration and has lived in Canada for ten years. She was born and raised just outside the capitol Kyiv in a small town and her father commuted to the city to work in a chocolate factory. She fondly remembers the most delicious treats coming home. When political fears began to escalate in 2012, her father moved the family to escape potential risks from Russia. The writing was on the wall. It was shortly thereafter that Crimea and the Donbas region, easy targets due to their geography, were invaded.
Inga still has immediate family in Ukraine that she worries about each day. Like many, her grandpa, a farmer in his 80’s, refused to leave. He did not want to leave his land and five treasured goats behind. For him, the choice to stay was clear – he speaks no other language and has known nothing else but his immediate area. Her two uncles have had to remain in Ukraine while her aunt and cousin fled to Warsaw and await a safe time to return.
Her beloved town, including the school, is now mostly destroyed. While the bombings were happening, Inga’s family attempted to communicate with those back home via a social media platform as they sat in underground cellars, going for days and days without electricity. Inga’s mom has shed thousands of tears with the stress and worry for her beautiful country and its people.
When we spoke with Inga, the region of Kyiv did not fall, and the Russians had retreated. For her friends in the Mariupol region, the outcome was much worse…
Galina has resided in Canada for many years and works in the hospital’s lab. Her mother, sister, niece, and other relatives were home in central Ukraine when Russia invaded.
Galina worked tirelessly to get two bus tickets for her 84-year-old mother and 22-year-old niece to travel to Poland. Her mother refused to leave, despite Galina’s hopeless attempts at changing her mind, stating the bus ride would be too hard for her. Instead, she sat in her 8th floor apartment, watching the constant bombings in the distance during the month of April until the front line was pushed back 50 kilometres. Galina arranged the help of two paid volunteers who visit her mother every other day for support. Her mom says that living through this war has been worse than WWII because at least Hitler was honest about it being a war. In contrary, Putin’s government legally bans anyone who mentions the word “war” in regards to the acts reigned upon the Ukrainian people. For many seniors the reality of leaving was more frightening than staying. Galina’s mother promises to reconsider leaving at a later date when it is more stable.
Galina has many friends from university who remain in Ukraine, volunteering to make vests and camouflage netting for soldiers. Stores in her hometown are open, and people continue to move around as if life is normal. Others she knows in occupied zones are not so lucky and are struggling with little to no support. Their summer family house in a Ukrainian village in the Kharkiv region is very likely destroyed. With that, their old family photos and belongings are probably gone or ruined. The local people were hiding in cellars from constant bombing and shelling. Their neighbours next door had to bury their daughter, a young woman hit by shelling, in the garden as there was no access to a cemetery. It’s hard to get news from these severely affected areas as there is no cell coverage.
Her niece left on the bus, travelling through the shooting corridor. Galina told her to seek help at the first volunteer tent she saw upon arriving in Warsaw. From there, Galina arranged a room at a boarding house in Germany and eventually a plane ticket to Canada. Her niece has now started a new life in Canada. She is living with her aunt and is an evacuee – a status different from refugee. Evacuees receive a work permit and, currently, a one-time financial support from government.
For Inga & Galina, these past 6 months have been very difficult, yet they continue to work through the stress and worry. We send our support to these two wonderful healthcare workers, and the many others in our healthcare community with family who remain in Ukraine.