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‘Doctors are carrying out heart surgery by flashlight’: Liev Schreiber on his $1m fundraising for Ukraine

Images of surgeons using torchlight to save lives became more popular as Russian missile strikes on Ukraine increased in recent weeks.

Liev Schreiber is perhaps best known for his role as Hollywood “fixer Ray Donovan” in the hit TV show or for his roles in movies ranging from the blockbuster X-Men Origins: Wolverine, to the Oscar-winning Spotlight. He had been fundraising since the beginning of the war to support a variety of organizations in Ukraine. He was inspired to do more when he heard about hospitals being thrown into darkness.

American actor and immigrant from Poland-Ukraine, the actor has launched an appeal to raise $1m for generators to aid medics in need. This will allow them to maintain their work in case of power outages.

In an exclusive interview with Sky News UK, Schreiber stated that he felt no other choice than to help.


He said that Russia has been using a very drastic strategy to respond to military advances, attacking civilian infrastructure. They’ve caused a lot of damage to Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. We are just trying to help doctors and hospitals… so they can continue doing the important work necessary to keep people alive.

“There are a few hospitals that have seen doctors perform open heart surgery by flashlight and candlelight. These doctors are highly skilled medical professionals. We are trying to raise funds to purchase generators to keep these hospitals lit so the surgeons and medics can do their jobs.

Schreiber is a five-time Golden Globe nominee and three-time Emmy nominee. He is also an ambassador for Volodymyr Zelenskyy‘s United24. This was set up by President Barack Obama to raise funds for the country after the war.

Five other United24 ambassadors have joined him – footballer Andriy Schevchenko, heavyweight boxer Oleksandr Uzyk, astronaut Scott Kelly and tennis player Elina Svitolina – all of whom are supporting the generator fundraising campaign. Generators cost around $8,000. They start at $8,000.

Russia is accused of attacking Ukraine’s heating and electricity infrastructures since October. Kyiv and its allies claim that this attack was a deliberate effort to harm civilians. The Kremlin denies that it targets civilian facilities.

Saving lives in darkness

Image Photo: Oleh Duda/AP

Oleh Duda was a cancer surgeon and took this photograph. He was in the middle a complex surgery at a hospital in Lviv when explosions occurred nearby. The lights went out moments later and Duda was forced to continue working using only his headlamp until a generator restored power after three minutes. In an interview, the surgeon stated that these crucial minutes could have saved the patient’s life.

The operation on the patient’s major artery was performed on 15 November. This was the same day that the power grid in Western Ukraine was hit by another missile strike from Russia. It caused blackouts and damaged nearly half of the country’s energy facilities.

The Kyiv Heart Institute posted a video showing similar scenes in November. It shows surgeons working on a child’s hearts with only headlamps and a flashlight powered by batteries.

Schreiber stated that Ukraine’s medical infrastructure has been “just decimated.” “It is crucial to preserve the doctors who are saving lives.

He has been to Ukraine three times this year. His Instagram account is almost exclusively dedicated to support calls, clips of “heroes” and footage of his work in the country to raise funds.

BlueCheck was also founded by him, along with United24. It is a crisis response organization that was established just weeks after the conflict broke out. BlueCheck’s goal is to quickly provide financial support to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Ukraine. This includes funding everything from psychological support programs to the evacuation of orphans.

“Did that amount of courage come from me?” The answer was no. So I did my best to make it work.

Image: Schreiber was joined by Ukrainian footballer Andriy Schevchenko during his fundraising efforts to generate generators. Pic: @andriiyushchak

Schreiber acknowledges that he is connected to Ukraine through his Ukrainian heritage. However, he says that it is something greater that has driven him to support the cause. As I sat with my children on my couch, watching the war unfold, and seeing these ordinary Ukrainian men saying goodbye to their wives, knowing that they might never see them again, as they were loaded onto buses to fight in a war they were outnumbered and outgunned.

“The idea that Ukraine was in an existential crisis, and that they would not exist if these men went to war. They would lose the ability to vote, have their own homes and speak their own languages, raise their children as they want, love who they love, and be able to vote for their leaders. Everything would disappear.

“The pure idea of democracy to me feels like it is being challenged around the globe right now. It was like I felt when I saw it, especially in front of my children, that questions were being raised for me: Could that be possible? Was I Ukrainian? Was that courage I had? The answer I got was no. So, I felt that the answer was no.

“As disinformation and misinformation are popping up around the globe, it seems like Ukraine is the starkest example of what’s really happening. It may not be obvious to those who only have access to Kremlin media but it is clear to the rest of us how fragile our democracy really is. We need to protect it, and we must cherish the freedoms that our ancestors earned.

“We are all brothers/sisters and we should think like that”

Image: Talking to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Pic: United24

Schreiber is the father of two teenage children with Naomi Watts, his ex-partner. He said that he couldn’t sit back and do nothing as a father.

He said, “The life [my children] have and the luxuries they enjoy because of the sacrifices my grandparents made and the opportunities I’ve been given, are not granted.”

“It seems like public discourse has lost some civility, and I believe that’s being reflected by this war. My children need to know what is important. My children need to understand the principles and values that I hold dear, and that is to treat each other with humanity and civility.

The images and news reports about Ukraine’s invasion by Russia at the beginning of the war were so horrifying that the world quickly responded with money, supplies, and support. Nine months later, however, the initial support wave has fallen precipitously.

Continue reading: Eyewitness: What does the strike on energy mean to Ukraine’s winter?

Schreiber stated that the Ukrainians he spoke to were in “remarkably positive spirits…just incredibly resilient people, and they are convinced it’s only a matter of time until this is over and their victory is assured.”

He hopes that people will continue to show their support for the country however they can.

“We are all brothers, sisters and should think the same way. We must be mindful of those in distress, especially during this time of the year. These Ukrainians are in deep need right now.”

Liev Scheiber is raising funds for United24


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