‘Tell them how they saved lives’

Ukraine hospital hands message for the Whit to war photographer

Friday, 17th June — By Tom Foot

Patient in Ukraine_photo Bradley Wood

A patient injured in a bombing. Photo: Bradley Wood

A UKRAINE hospital has sent heartfelt thanks to the Whittington after it rushed out crucial medical supplies – passing a letter to a King’s Cross photo­journalist to bring home.

Bradley Wood is back after one month in the war-ravaged country including the heavily bombed Kharkiv region and within a few miles of the Russian border.

He told the Tribune he had seen downed helicopters, ruined buildings and bodies during his journey that was “frequently interrupted by military checkpoints and bomb debris strewn across the roads”.

At the Zolochiv Central Hospital in Kharkiv, he was handed the message for the Whittington which included an invitation for staff to “visit after our victory”.

Mr Wood had interviewed neurologist Dr Ilona Butova who told him how the hospital had been “overwhelmed by an endless stream of casualties” but she had refused to leave her workplace despite the danger.

The Putin-ordered invasion began in February but Russian military forces have faced stiff resistance from the Ukrainians – as well as international condemnation.

Dr Ilona Butova at the Zolochiv Central Hospital in Kharkiv. Photo: Bradley Wood

In his report, Mr Wood said Dr Butova had told how they “had to quickly adapt to a state of emergency amid what was unfolding” and “the difficulty was in deciding which order the patients would be treated first, based on their urgency”.

She told him: “When the Russians fired a rocket in this direction from the Black Sea all the windows shattered and the doors came flying off.

“We took the patients that could be moved down into the basement and continued to treat them there until the threat had passed. We were all praying that the intensity of the attack would not increase because the patients upstairs would simply die.”

She recalled treating patients who lost their lives that she knew personally and how there was a time when it was virtually impossible for volunteers to deliver humanitarian aid to the hospital.

The letter of thanks for the Whittington

Mr Wood said: “Dr Butova expresses her gratitude for the help received from the UK – especially the Whittington Hospital.”

He said she had not known if it was possible to arrange, but she had made a short video about the hospital’s needs and within a short space of time medical aid began to arrive from north London.

“Making any sense of their experience may remain out of reach, but the overarching impression is one of strength and resilience that transcends the verbal realm,” he said. “A phen­omenon that testifies the human spirit.”

Mr Wood said he had been touched by the support felt for the British who are held in high regard, he said, because of the weapons and funds that have been sent out to help the Ukrainians.

Bradley Wood spent a month in Ukraine warzone

He added: “The affiliation and the love felt for the UK was beyond what I was expecting. It certainly helped an old cowboy like me get around.”

But he said he was still decompressing his one month having seen traumatic scenes of dead soldiers and landmine victims.

Eugene Klimovsky, the Ukranian hospital’s chief executive, wrote the letter of thanks for the Whittington.

“There are no words and emotions in the whole world that could convey the grief that we are now experiencing,” the text said. “We appreciate that at this difficult time for us you are concerned about the problems of our doctors. You are doing a great and very noble deed.”

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