Lviv, 28 November 2022 – “When the war started, we didn’t have time to evacuate Mariupol before it was already under full siege. We understood the risks we were taking if we tried to leave the city, so we decided to wait,” explains Ihor, a doctor with 30 years of experience.

Ihor and his wife Svitlana spent three weeks in the city, surrounded by Russian troops. Mariupol became notorious for Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine. According to human rights activists, the war crimes committed in Mariupol by Russian forces are among some of the most serious in history.

Humanitarian organizations do not have access to the occupied city of Mariupol and have not been able to verify the number of civilian casualties. Photo: Mariupol City Council

Before the war, Ihor and his wife worked in the clinic at the Azovstal steel production company. When the war started, many residents, employees of the enterprise, and defenders of Mariupol hid from the shelling in the factory’s bomb shelter.

“We had minimum supplies. There was nothing there: no electricity, gas, water, or heating. Soon after, Russian troops started shelling the city from all sides with different types of weapons,” Ihor recalls. “We lived on the left bank where the most severe fighting took place, aimed at gaining control of the steel production company.”

Many residential buildings were damaged in Mariupol during the attacks, but Ihor and his wife succeeded in crossing the only bridge still under the control of the Ukrainian military forces and took shelter in a relative’s house in the city centre.

The couple soon managed to escape the besieged city with the first evacuation convoy headed towards the city of Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine. They spent two days on the road and passed through 15 Russian military checkpoints. When they reached their destination, Ihor and his wife decided to head to Lviv to reunite with their daughter and grandchildren.

After fleeing war-torn Mariupol, Ihor and Svitlana decided to try and start over in Lviv. Photo: IOM/Ihor’s personal archive

The war forced them into displacement, but it did not change their calling: to help others and save lives. In this unfamiliar environment, hardly knowing anyone in Lviv, they had to start from scratch and look for an opportunity to make themselves useful.

Soon after, they started volunteering while they searched for a job. Finally, after several months, Ukraine’s employment centre offered them jobs as ultrasound specialists. They are now working in mobile clinics operating out of Lviv region, with support from local Sheptytskyi Hospital and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The opportunity to continue practicing his medical profession has helped Ihor keep faith that all their problems will soon be behind them. He is always glad to be able to assist local community members where mobile clinics provide on-site care, and many of those who go to the mobile clinic for their appointment prefer to get an ultrasound conducted by Ihor.

Ihor is glad to be able to assist local community members where mobile clinics provide on-site care. Photo: IOM/Tetiana Astakhova

According to an IOM survey, every third displaced person in Ukraine has limited access to health care and medicine. Most of Ihor’s patients live in remote locations where access to health care is a luxury.

“We provide medical assistance to those displaced, as well as to the local population, in various villages and small towns in the Lviv region. People are always excited when we arrive, eagerly waiting for their turn; others come to us,” Ihor explains. “We can see that our assistance is crucial because such services are not easily available.”

In Lviv region, IOM mobile clinics rolled out in April, once the local health care system was not able to cope anymore with the influx of people who needed urgent assistance. Thanks to the teams’ day-to-day work, more than 50,000 people in the region have already received assistance in IOM-run mobile clinics.

Ihor says that the timely identification of pathological conditions increases the chances to refer patients for appropriate care, contributing to a faster recovery. For this reason, he takes great care of his ultrasound machine. He knows that lives may depend on it.

Written by Tetiana Astakhova, Communications Specialist with IOM Ukraine,

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SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions