«I've Never Seen Wounded Children Before and Never Heard Screams of Mothers»: The Story of a Combat Medic Who Saved a Child

Combat medic Kateryna Sukhenko, who saved a 14-year-old girl in Slovyansk of Donetsk oblast, is only 20 years old.

Photo: Alina Sarnatska

On April 14, Slovyansk was under enemy fire. The number of explosions that rang out in the city at that time varies: witnesses count at least 11, recalling with tears in their eyes how they ran out of the high-rise building. Not everyone was able to run out then. And those who remained among the ruins needed urgent medical assistance.

Kateryna Sukhenko is a Kyiv resident who voluntarily joined the army at the beginning of the full-scale invasion. It was she who spent several hours in the ruins on April 14, holding the hands and heads of people who were bleeding. It was her efforts that saved the injured teenage girl.

«All together were pulling people out from the rubbles»

When a rocket hit the high-rise building, military medics Alina and Katya were nearby. Medics immediately ran to the places of shelling. In one of the apartments on the upper floors, they found a 14-year-old girl under rubble and rushed there without any delay. Katya spent three hours next to the injured child in the ruins of an apartment building.

«Half-detached concrete blocks were hanging over them, and there was a hole down from the fourth floor nearby. The girl was taken to the hospital, she is alive. Another baby in the house died. The army, the police, and the State Emergency Service all together pulled out alive people from the rubbles. I have never seen wounded children before and never heard screams of mothers,» recalls her friend, servicewoman Alina Sarnatska, who was nearby at that moment.

Rescue of a wounded girl / photo from social networks

Modest and quiet Katya smiles to the journalists of «Vchasno», shrugging her shoulders: she says that this is her job, and she does not see any heroism in it. However, the way the medic got into the war already deserves respect and honor.

«Got out of the basement and went to the checkpoint to apply for the army»

Kateryna Sukhenko recalls: she spent the day of the full-scale invasion of the Russians in Kyiv together with a friend. At that time, an ordinary girl was forced to live in the basement — for several days, until March 17. Katya jokingly recalls: those conditions were considered luxurious even by modern standards because the basement was fully equipped for comfortable living. There was even a shower cabin. However, comfort still did not force her to remain a civilian.

«On March 17, I told my friend that I was going to pick up a parcel at the post office, but I went to the checkpoint with my military ticket. I graduated from medical school, studied to become a psychologist, and worked as an X-ray laboratory technician, so I had a military ID. And so, when I came to the checkpoint, I said: „I'm a doctor, please take me somewhere to do something.“ Everyone was very surprised and asked how old I was (I was 19 at that time, I turned 20 already in the army). But they still sent me to the headquarters, where I had an interview. I remember that everyone there tried to dissuade me from this idea. And when I even signed an application to join the territorial defense, they told me: „You're going home now to pack your things. But if you change your mind, just don’t come back, we will tear up your application.“ But I didn’t change my mind, I was already there in the morning,» Katya recalls.

Both relatives and the same friend were shocked by the girl’s decision. Katya’s mother, who celebrated her birthday on March 21, spent all days from March 17 in tears — she did not believe and did not want to let her daughter go to war.

«My mom cried all five days, not only that her life was ruined because of the war, but also that the child went crazy. But when the entire medical department congratulated her on her birthday by phone, she calmed down, my mother felt a little relieved,» Katya says with a smile.

Even until March, Kateryna served almost calmly in Kyiv and the region — at the time of the evacuation from Bucha, she went to visit people, and then she was mostly engaged in the treatment of pneumonia and household injuries of soldiers. However, in the spring of 2023, she came to Donetsk oblast.

«At first parents tried to get me out of the army, but realized that it was to no avail»

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, Katya has been home only twice — for her birthday and for her father’s one. She missed her mother’s birthday. She admits that at first, the parents tried to return their daughter — they persuaded as much as they could. However, when they realized that there was no result, they started doing what they could to help the child and her service. Katya’s mother went to volunteer — weave camouflage nets, and collect parcels for Ukrainian defenders.

The medic tells «Vchasno» journalists that she did not expect an easy job in Donetsk oblast. And understood that it would be difficult.

«Of course, it’s scary, because we are all people. It’s scary to see the first dead comrades, it’s scary to think about it. But on the other hand, I already have several interesting stories, how a neighbor told my mother that I sit here, do nothing and receive a lot of money simply for „living“, and when her son was drafted into the army, she came to ask my mom how she is handling it. There was another story when relatives from Canada cried that they were feeling bad, their work was difficult, and demanded to support them,» Katya shrugs her shoulders with a smile.

Comrades from the platoon speak about the fragile medic with a smile — a short girl with a baby face has already shown what she is capable of. And she was also able to hold on in crisis situations, when a step away — an abyss (in the literal sense). She was also able to save a child’s life.

Now Katya continues to serve in Donetsk oblast, saving the lives of everyone who is forced to face the Russians and the consequences of their actions. However, she is sure: when the war ends with victory, when she returns home, everything will be fine. And there will finally be time to hug all the relatives who are waiting for their Katya at home in Kyiv.

Author: Alina Yevych

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