Doctor tells his story of life under Russian occupation in Zaporizhzhia Oblast

21 July, 08:51 PM
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Doctors in temporarily occupied territories complain on shortage of even basic medicines - illustrative photo (Photo:REUTERS / Alexander Ermochenko)

Doctors in temporarily occupied territories complain on shortage of even basic medicines - illustrative photo (Photo:REUTERS / Alexander Ermochenko)

A doctor with ten years of work experience under his belt talks about life under occupation, the Russian military, and his dream to leave the warzone.

Since the beginning of the full-scale war, almost 60% of the territory of Zaporizhzhia Oblast has been under Russian occupation. One doctor from a city hospital, who requested anonymity for reasons of personal safety, has opened up to NV about life in this part of Ukraine, and how medical personnel continues to operate.

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The following is the story in his own words:

Our city was under occupation literally from the first days of the war. At that time, many civilians were admitted to the hospital with shrapnel wounds and mine explosion injuries.

At the same time, Russian soldiers and Ukrainian captured servicemen began to be admitted to our hospital. There were several cases when Russians brought Ukrainian soldiers to us for treatment, whom they had, prior to that, operated on themselves. Then they were taken away, and I don't know what their fate is.

Currently, Russian doctors treat their wounded themselves, and we are not involved in this.  Now they have their own infirmary, which is located on the premises of the former hospital ward.

Many medicines are not available. The Russian military did not allow buses with medical supplies to pass, so there is a shortage of consumables, including gloves, bandages, and solutions for treating wounds.

Since most of the city's hospitals are now closed, many patients are brought to us, including seriously ill ones. Besides, many patients from Mariupol come to us. But the number of doctors at the hospital has now fallen by approximately 60-70%, so the workload on the medical staff has increased significantly – we have to take more shifts. Many doctors left the city back in February-April, and even then only thanks to their sheer determination.

Although I did not sign anything [with the Russian occupiers], in parallel with the Ukrainian salary, we were given a second one – in Russian rubles.

However, recently there was a meeting with the [occupation] military administration of the city and, judging by everything, they are going to offer Ukrainian doctors the opportunity to resign and go to work in Russia.

Although the hospital staff mostly sticks to pro-Ukrainian views, not all of them are able to leave the occupied territory.

Therefore, in my opinion, many will be forced to agree [to move to work in Russia]. I assume that in the future, in order to stay employed, they will be forced to obtain Russian passports.

As for me, I will most likely try to escape to the territory controlled by Ukraine, because I do not want to sign anything [with the occupation administration]. Although I am not sure that it will be possible to flee because not all doctors are allowed to escape the occupation.

 From my city, for example, one can try to leave either in the northern direction – to Zaporizhzhia, or in the southern direction – through Crimea. If you go towards Zaporizhzhia, many people stand in huge columns for evacuation for almost a week.

And if you go to Crimea, it seems that most of those trying to leave are let out, but I heard that there are interrogations there, and some people are beaten. However, if you go to Crimea, at least you won’t have a projectile striking your car. At least it's better in that respect.

But generally speaking, the road through Russian checkpoints is extremely depressing – I passed through checkpoints with Russian soldiers several times.

In most cases, in the occupied part of the region, settlement is in hryvnias. Let's say, on the market, the prices are indicated in the Ukrainian national currency, but the receipts for the payment of utility services are partly in rubles, and partly in hryvnias. So far, the city has water and electricity. But the gas supply was cut off.

Russian goods also appeared in the stores, and they make up the majority of products now. Stores are selling leftovers from Ukrainian goods.

In general, most of the residents of the temporarily occupied territory are waiting for the [Ukrainian] Armed Forces and de-occupation. After all, everyone sees what is happening in reality, and many of those who were neutral before have now become pro-Ukrainian. Although, of course, there are those who sided with the enemy. And there were a lot of snitches. You can't call it a full-fledged life – it’s a constant fear.

But even this does not prevent the appearance of pro-Ukrainian leaflets in the city, the photos of which are shared in local social media groups.

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