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'You can't get used to it': Inside a war-torn city hospital where surgeons struggle to comprehend Russian savagery

They all know how to get to the recovery rooms of the hospital in Kramatorsk.

“Head past all the sandbags at the ground floor,” said an old man, “down the hallway to stairs.”

There are two doors on the second floor. We stopped at number 2.

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Valentyna Chubatenko (the hospital’s medical director) told us that we would see similar scenes in any eastern Ukraine ward – the exact same kind of injuries and suffering, both mental as well as physical.

“Our doctors have a lot to do, it is the exact same for everyone, it’s very difficult,” said Dr Chubatenko.

Image A hospital in the Ukrainian city Kramatorsk

“It was impossible”

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Alexandr Dyachanko was a man we found sitting in the corner of our room.

His body was covered with a blue-green antiseptic dye that had been applied to the wounds he sustained in an explosion.

He said that he was just finishing breakfast when he nearly lost his life.

He said, “I was having coffee and when it happened, it was unbelievable, just ‘bang,’ and then nothing.”

A number of rockets were fired at Mr Dyachanko’s apartment in Kramatorsk, in an attack that was both random and deliberate.

The explosions created large blast waves that shattered glass, window frames, and doors.

The contents of the flat were removed into the surrounding areas.

Image Six people were reported to have been killed in the building’s fire

“How can you destroy a residential area?” ‘

“I have these fragments in my shoulder, the glass, and all of the garbage that was flying,” stated Mr Dyachanko.

“Everything flew because of the blast wave, and here, torn apart in the explosion. They stitched me up.”

Local residents claim that six victims were killed and 28 others were injured in the blasts.

“How are you able to give an order to demolish a residential area?” Mr Dyachenko demanded. “It’s happening all over Ukraine.”

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His neighbour Vitali Vyhotsev (who lived in the same house) has joined Mr Dyachenko in room 2.

Vitali recalls two explosions that occurred on the morning 18 March. Vitali has been blinded by the second blast.

He recalled that he was in his apartment on the first floor. “The first explosion was huge and I saw glass fall from higher floors. The second explosion occurred at this point.

“I was overwhelmed by the blast that emitted from the corridor or room. I remember standing up and moving in the direction of the entrance. I was eventually freed by the volunteers.

His mother watched in shock. His mother was in tears as he listened to his doctors.

“This is a worrying moment for you?” I was curious.

He replied, “Yes, it is, to lose sight.”

Image Vitali Vyhotsev was also blinded by the second explosion

“My children grabbed rockets – it exploded in my house”

Viacheslav Yepiefantsev (on the opposite side of the room 2) was our guest. He had been admitted with severe shrapnel wounds.

He said that a rocket had hit his home. The weapon didn’t explode until his children touched the device.

He recalled that the animal had entered through his window. The children grabbed it and ran after it. It was not a large one with a tail. It exploded in the home when it was grabbed by the children.

“My daughter had lots of shrapnel in her legs, and the pieces went through her entire body.

“My son was sent from home to Dnipro, to the hospital.”

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Daryna, Daryna’s daughter, was just one year old and seven months when the explosion occurred.

Five hours of blood transfusions were attempted by the Kramatorsk hospital’s surgical team.

Tragically, they couldn’t save her life.

Image Dr Maksym Urbozhenok is the head of the hospital’s surgical department

“All wars are absurd, it’s impossible for us to understand”

The hospital’s surgeon department is headed by Dr Maksym Ubozhenok.

He said, “You can’t get use to such a thing.”

“I have been treating children in surgery for over 30 years. But these injuries are totally different.”

Daryna had been scanned by him and he placed them on the glass, highlighting any metal specks throughout her body.

“This is the abdominal region, there are fragments. He pointed out that it is only fragments of metal, but concrete and wood (fragments) can be seen here.

I asked Dr Ubozhenok whether there was a way to deal with the brutality of these acts and their randomness.

He said, “It’s totally absurd.” It’s absurd, it’s surreal. All wars are absurd. It is impossible to comprehend.”


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