АвторAuthor: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Roman Klochko
16 October 2022
While Ukrainian troops were holding the defense of Makariv, Inna Zdolnyk, a nurse with 15 years of experience, was on duty providing emergency care to soldiers and civilians. In those days, she remained the only medic in Makariv Central District Hospital. Under constant shelling, she treated the wounded and fought for their lives 24/7. Read more about the everyday life of a medic in uniform in the Monologues of War.
I am a nurse at the anesthesiology unit of Makariv Central District Hospital. On February 24, I woke up early and started getting ready for my shift. I turned on the TV and find out that the war began. Then I went to my shift and on February 25 I was waiting near the enlistment office.
I remember, my husband drove me to work by car, and there was such a queue outside the shops that there had not been such a queue for ages! A lot of people were buying, I was even surprised.
My husband got a call-up paper. We have two children. Our junior daughter was 11 years old at that time. We talked over that we need to bring the children to our parents in the village of Nalyvaikivka, which is 5 kilometers from Makariv. If he is conscripted and I will be on shift who will look after them?
The enlistment office moved out from Makariv so my husband joined the territorial defense and I decided on volunteering. But it turned out later that guys in the territorial defense had no medics. So I joined them.
On February 27, I already had the first wounded from the village of Sytnyaky. We left at 7 a.m. Intelligence reported that it was possible to pass through the bridge, which is now blown up. But you had to fly over it. Do not stop even for a second! The other side from Kalynivka had already been occupied, so the bridge was being shot by tanks.
A colleague of mine lived in Kalynivka. She asked me to pick her up if I passed by as she needs to go to work. They brought a lot of wounded and there was not enough staff. That first time we went without problems: we got the wounded and gave a colleague a ride to work.
And at midnight I was called to Sytnyaky again. They said that a woman was wounded. At that time, there was already information that Russians had passed through Zavalivka, and Kalynivka was occupied. They did not let me go, but I persuaded them. But if in the morning we had an armed soldier with us, this time it was just me and the driver. We dressed in civilian clothes. We drove along an old road that ran along the side of the highway. We were driving and saw that so many tracked vehicles had passed that the asphalt was completely scraped out. In the morning, these tracks were not there.
On the way, we passed some tented vehicles with painted “V” letters on them. Thank God, no one stopped us. We thought maybe they were sleeping and did not expect that someone would drive through these bushes. But I wonder how to get back?
We make up a legend. If we are stopped we will tell that we are a couple and going to an old lady who has suffered from insult. We had already heard about rapings in Borodyanka. So I decided to say that I work as a medic in a dispensary with HIV-infected people, and I met my husband there. If they suddenly start courting me, I will say: “Okay. I am HIV-infected myself. Now I will reward you all, you will die faster”.
We arrived at the scene and saw that the wounded was neither a civilian nor a woman. He was a military man. And he also had a tattoo related to 2014 or 2015… And you know how Russians react to tattoos.
We dressed him as an old lady and put him in the car. We said to him: “You’re after a stroke, you don’t talk because of speaking issues”.
We got back safely. No one touched us, we took the wounded to the hospital. Then I could not sleep for 2 hours, the adrenaline was going out. I had all sorts of thoughts: what if, what if…
“I was woken up at 6 a.m. A reconnaissance party came and asked if we saw tanks down the road. No. And it turned out that there were 10 tanks! They were hidden in the bushes with their guns pointed at the road. How they didn’t shoot us? it’s just a miracle…”.
And how could we notice those tanks? It was dead of night and we were driving without headlights. It was so dark that we could not even see the road.
After that, my driver gave me the keys, and technical passport and said that he would go to dress warmer. And he never came back. But I got a new driver, who was with me to the end. Kolya Melnychenko. He transported the wounded with me and carried the killed soldiers. I was just lucky with him, I could rely on him.
On February 28, the first wounded from the 95th Brigade were already in Makariv, and in the evening I was invited to a staff meeting, where Mr. Vasyl and Mr. Sanych warned me that they wanted to evacuate me tomorrow morning, that there would be no more such opportunity: “Your husband is here and you are here, who will take care of the children? Can we take you out?”. But who would replace me then? Who would help the wounded soldiers from the 95th Brigade? So I stayed with them.
From the territorial defense, I was called up for military service and found myself in a guard company. We were led by the Seventh. I gave myself a call sign – Koza (Goat). Because that’s what my grandparents called me since childhood: I always get somewhere, I always get out of somewhere.
And then all the healthcare workers left the hospital and there was no one left. On March 9, I was transferred to Makariv Central District Hospital because the wounded were taken there, and there was no one to provide medical care.
I fell into despair when I crossed the threshold and found out that there was no one else in the hospital. And then I saw Galya, who used to work as a surgical nurse, and now she is retired. Also, there was Lyuba who cooked for guys. She also used to work as a nurse a long time ago. They helped me a lot. In the middle of March, my driver’s brother Sasha Melnychenko came. He is a surgeon who did not work for long in his field but I still felt better with him.
Makariv was shelled all the time. When I went to the 5th floor to phone my family I see fires here and there. It was just a nightmare.
There were such days that there was no breath. Then at least there is a lull for an hour or two, and sometimes it was scary, sorry, to go to the toilet. Do you know what I was worried about? I’m a girl. I thought if a shell hit when I’m on the toilet. And there’s a bunch of guys around. They will come to save me, and I’m without pants… I was joking, if anything, let my husband come in first, put me on first, and then let the others come in…
I really did not want to be transferred to the hospital so that my husband and I would be together. We might be killed both so there were much more chances to stay alive if we were in the same place. But there were two moments when I was glad that he was with me. And he was saved by the fact that I was there.
We have long wanted to go down to the basement and arrange some normal room there so that we could take a nap at night. Air alerts were so frequent that you spent more time in the basement than upstairs. One day I couldn’t get my hands on it, the second day I had no time, the third day I was looking through the medicines, and my husband said: “That’s it, let’s go. Otherwise we will sit here and do nothing again. And it’s not a dream to sit on chairs like that”.
“We go down to the basement and then I fly up! The ground disappeared from under my feet, a cloud of dust, nothing was visible. I understood that there was a shell hit. And no one announced the air raid, it was just the two of us who came down. We’ve rushed upstairs!”
After the shelling, we saw that the shell hit just near the room I was looking through the medicines. It smashed a window and a door there. If my husband had not dragged me to the basement, it would not have killed me but would have cut me well with shrapnel.
My husband also had an accident. He was keeping an eye out [for enemy armament – ed.] on the 5th floor and air alert began. But his walkie-talkie died so he heard nothing. And I run to the 5th floor to warn him about the shellings. Shells hit just where he had stood before. So we can say that we protected each other a little.
My family did not know where I was and what I was doing, because I said I was at home in the basement. What if the phone was tapped? Nobody needs it to come to the hospital. But my mother understood everything.
I didn’t find out about my children’s departure immediately. They were taken by my cousin who was traveling with her husband and child. My mother and father and my grandmother, who is 87 years old, stayed on the farm. What will they do with chickens, pigs, rabbits, and everything they have accumulated?
On March 6, Nalyvaikivka was shelled and our neighbor, young guy, was killed. Also, 4 people were wounded, including my dad. A shell fragment hit his leg. After, my dad was taken to the hospital in Radomyshl (a city in Zhytomyr oblast – ed.) but my mom stayed in their home. Only on March 8 our guys tried to get to Nalyvaikivka. I collected a parcel for my mother – bread, oranges, some canned food and medicines for the village nurse Tanya. My mom said it was the best present for International Women’s Day for her. She knew nothing on how my things going and I know nothing about them. They didn’t tell me about my father as well because they knew I could crawl past the Russians on my belly.
And then my mother left too. Somebody helped her to move out. Since then, I felt so much better, as if another wings opened. Now I was sure that everything was fine with my family, and I could think about my life and my husband.
Wounded were delivered to us in different condition. Some with amputated limbs, some with penetrating wounds of the abdominal cavity, and open head injuries, bullet wounds, contusions…
There were not enough staff. The guys were wearing 2-3 trousers so we had to cut those clothes to examine the wounds. Lyuba cuts, Galya puts an intravenous catheter, and I prepare medicines. Everything has to be done quickly, because time is of the essence. That’s how we worked together.
Medicines were severely lacking. And there was a case when a wounded enemy was delivered to me and military asked to stabilize him as he had heavy injuries.
“It was necessary that he survived and testified. He had a high rank and could have been exchanged for several of ours.”
I had only 8 ampules of haemostatic when they brought him to me. I realize that if I get 8-10 wounded militarymen it won’t be enough ampules for all of them! So I will have haemostatic only for 4 soldiers. And I have to spend for enemy as well. I am opening an ampule and tears are falling like hail…They hugged me, calmed me down… But I felt so sorry for my own people.
And then, by some miracle, two Polish volunteers got into our hospital. Oh, how they were swearing seeing my tourniquets…Bike tube was what I had instead of tourniquets. They didn’t even got how to use it. I showed them and they filmed it.
When leaving they asked what I need the most. It was on Wednesday. And on Friday morning I received a lot of hemostatic and some tourniquets from them. Also, these guys left us their volunteer bus to transport the wounded. Because all our cars were hit by shells.
This time I cried too. But now I was happy that the medicines came to me.
I had experience in intensive care in Makariv. And before that I worked in Kyiv in the oncology center in the palliative care unit, where people die. So I am adapted to all this and perceived everything as work.
If it happened again, I would still do the same. The only thing that stopped me in 2014 was that my child was only 2 years old. So I helped volunteers with medicines. In the palliative care unit, people often died, there were medicines left and their relatives allowed me to pass them to volunteers at the front. So I tried to help the guys – if not on the front line, then at least behind their backs.
In May, my husband and I decided to get married. 17 years of cohabitation, two children. We quietly came to our company commanders and informed them about our intention. And they organized such a soldier’s wedding for us! There were balloons, flowers, colored smoke, a photo shoot near the arch opposite the House of Culture destroyed by missiles, and parents were invited. It turned out well. We just have to live on.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Iryna Hyliuk | Translation: Roman Klochko