When the Russians promised medics from occupied Donetsk jobs and apartments in Mariupol, they forgot to say that they would have to work with people who were torn to pieces by Russian shells.
Iryna is a 38-year-old Donetsk resident. When the occupation of the eastern regions of Ukraine took place in 2014, she left for a year — lived first in Kyiv, then in Dnipro. However, she decided to return — the woman thought that it would be better and more comfortable at home. An obstetrician-gynecologist by education, Iryna currently works in one of the hospitals in occupied Donetsk — she got a job there back in October 2015. However, in the summer of 2022, she and several other doctors were invited to go to work in the «liberated territories» — in Mariupol, in which already at that time «were almost cholera, starvation… and festering wounds from shells».
Preparation of Donetsk medics for work in the ruined cities where corpses literally were buried under rubbish began at the end of 2021, before the full-scale Russian invasion. At that time doctors in state clinics (surgeons, pediatricians, obstetricians, anesthesiologists, traumatologists, and paramedics) were sent to «courses». This had never happened before, but at that time no one explained anything. According to Iryna, everyone had a day of theory, and «practical» training — it lasted for several days in December. After that, the work did not change in any way — even when Russia began its offensive against Ukraine.
Already at the beginning of June, according to the doctor, the hospital received an order to send medics to the occupied territory — they took pediatricians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and obstetricians — they were supposed to open a Mariupol hospital to receive patients there. However, they did not say anything about the condition of the medical institution — although at that time the hospital had already been gutted by Russian shells for several months. In fact, the state and medical institutions became one of the first targets of the occupiers — even when it was known that civilians and children were hiding there from the missiles.
Photo by Merkushev, a journalist of the Russian propaganda media
Have doctors been sent to treat the occupiers and wounded residents of Mariupol before? Yes. The hospital where Iryna works was one of the first to receive wounded Russians. The doctors of Donetsk also actively supported the Russian army and from the very beginning of the invasion traveled with the field hospitals to the devastated territories — to «lick the wounds» of the occupiers who were responsible for airstrikes on the people of Mariupol.
According to the woman, she agreed, because could not sit at home when she was needed there — the Russians «from above» said that there were many women with children, pregnant women, and young mothers left in Mariupol — allegedly it was safer in the city than in Ukraine. Therefore, at the end of June, Iryna went to «liberated Mariupol» as part of a group of 8 doctors of various specialties. And she came to the ruins from a horror movie.
Shocked Iryna has already rolled into town — only the ruins remained in Mariupol, which the woman did not expect. According to her, she knew about broken windows, cracks in the walls, dirt, and unsanitary conditions in the city due to «heavy shelling». However, the state of the city was frightening, because she saw only burnt houses, scorched earth, and dirty people. It was during that period that a serious «hygiene famine» began in the city — there was no water — it was only part of the humanitarian aid. People washed and drank in rainwater, which was collected in puddles. This was significantly different from what was promised to all doctors.
Already after the interview, she added that there was no equipment in the hospital — it was, as the occupiers said, «taken away by the Nazis so that people would die without help.» Although, in fact, since the occupation of Mariupol, echelons with medical equipment, toilets and local belongings calmly drove to the Russian hinterlands and hospitals in the previously occupied territories.
Photo: Russian media Kommersant
«My hands were shaking the first days. A lot of women came, but not for my specialization — they came for amputation surgery, for bandages. Many wounded (both women and men) simply came, but we could not help them in any way — for example, one had a fragment stuck between his ribs. There were no tools to get it out, no X-rays to look at, nothing at all. We worked only with the equipment that we brought. I temporarily began to bandage wounds and take care of severed limbs, but this was also difficult because the „wards“ were made in corridors or rooms without windows, it was very dirty — unsanitary. The limbs of many were festering, it was hot — and the wounds were Infested with larvae,» the woman says.
«People were under the rubble for a very long time, gangrene started in many from crushing and injuries, and doctors perform five or six amputations a day. Of course, there are no X-rays or MRIs here, doctors operate based solely on their experience,» said Russian doctor Inna Akatiyeva in May 2022.
«Doctors sleep right there, in the hospital, in sleeping bags, they set up a field kitchen in the yard, and they cook the food right there. While in the hospital, people lie without bedclothes, directly on mattresses, and eat once a day. «Many are exhausted and barely recover from the shock,» said «volunteer» medics from the Russian Federation.
As for the accommodation of the medics, they really lived in the apartments that survived the bombings. Apparently, the apartments belonged to already dead people or those who decided to leave the occupation.
From what she experienced, the woman cannot forget how babies and small children had to be bandaged — a 6−7-year-old girl did not have an arm — she was amputated because part of it was cut off during the shelling.
After her «trip to hell», doctors from the same hospital went and continue to go to the occupied territories. According to Iryna, no one stays there permanently — only the surgeon with whom she went to Mariupol in June lasted the longest. He returned at the beginning of winter.
«I think that these people in Mariupol now just need peace. What I saw there was horror, people should not have to experience this. I know that some mothers who came to me can no longer give birth — because of the unsanitary conditions, lack of medical assistance, insufficient help (from the occupation authorities) — all this had very bad consequences,» Iryna says.