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Ukraine: DRC provided necessary medical device to injured Bakhmut citizen

After being seriously injured, Oleh fled his hometown Bakhmut, which has been the epicentre of the fighting in the East of Ukraine and is now in ruins. For months, Oleh lived in the basement of his apartment block, escaping shelling.

©DRC Ukraine, Dnipro, 2023, Arsen Dzodzaev.

Posted on 13 Sep 2023

When Bakhmut was under fire last year, Oleh's wife, son, and daughter moved to Kyiv Oblast. However, Oleh*, 53, and his mother Yulia*, 87, did not want to leave their hometown until the last moment. They left their whole life there: an apartment, a car, a favourite bicycle, and many other things.  

"I kept thinking that we would somehow survive; that we could stay there," says Oleh. 

However, every month the situation in the town deteriorated. The military filled the streets and buildings, and the locals, who numbered about 73,000 before the Russian Federation military offensive started in 2022, had to leave. 

"Those who stayed were looking after the other people’s houses. My neighbours kept asking me to look after their property," says Oleh. 

The man adds that food was delivered to the town as humanitarian aid. There was also a warming centre where civilians gathered. However, the road to this facility was deadly—the town was and still is right on the front line. "Many people disappeared on the way to or from the warming centre," says Oleh. 

He also came under fire many times but was not injured. In March, he was unlucky—a mortar shell exploded right next to him, and shrapnel tore his arm and leg.  

His neighbours provided first aid, but his wounds were serious, and he was afraid of losing his arm, so he decided to leave the town. On the eve of his departure, shops around his house caught fire, including a car chemicals store. Poisonous smoke spread over the ground and got into the basement where people were hiding. Therefore, everyone was busy closing the holes to the outside, and Oleh didn't even have time to pack his belongings before leaving. 

He arrived at the hospital in Kostiantynivka with no belongings. His arm was saved, but the nerves were severely damaged by the debris, and it hurt a lot when Oleh tried to move it. Oleh and his mother then tried to find a place to stay and eventually ended up staying in a shelter for internally displaced persons in Dnipro.

Oleh shows how the nerve stimulation device works.©DRC Ukraine, Dnipro, 2023, Arsen Dzodzaev.

Oleh shows how the nerve stimulation device works. ©DRC Ukraine, Dnipro, 2023, Arsen Dzodzaev.

Starting life from scratch

The pain in his arm did not stop and the doctor prescribed him very strong painkillers. The doctor also suggested implanting a special electrical stimulator for nerve endings in his hand. This was supposed to help him move his fingers and gradually reduce the pain. The surgery itself was free of charge but Oleh had to buy the stimulation device. These expenses were covered by the DRC under the project funded by the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund. 

"I connect the device 7 times a day and stimulate the nerves. I used to be unable to bend my palm, but now I can do it a little bit. The pain is also decreasing slowly," says Oleh.  

Oleh has a technical degree and in Bakhmut he invested in the development of a chalk quarry. Work at the quarry stopped in 2011 when gas prices pivoted, and production became profitless. Oleh planned to develop another quarry, but all equipment at both locations was destroyed during the hostilities. 

He also recently saw a video of the entrance to the 9-storey building where he lived being destroyed. 

"It was a panel house, so the whole block fell down. It looked like someone had cut it with a knife, like a cake," says Oleh. This happened after he had left the town, so his plans to return and collect his belongings and documents cannot be realised anymore. In addition, the area around the house may be mined. 

Today, like many Ukrainians, Oleh has no exact plans for the near future. Together with his mother, he continues to stay in the shelter, relying on his mother's pension and Oleh's disability-related social payments. However, the city of Dnipro in Eastern Ukraine, where they live, is also regularly shelled. For example, on August 24, Ukraine's Independence Day, a rocket hit a bus station in Dnipro, leaving 10 people severely injured. 

"Probably, if the pain goes away and my arm heals, I will find a job as a security guard. I would like to help my children financially because my daughter is young, she studies at school. However, a security guard's salary in Dnipro is meagre— 600 UAH (€14) per whole day," he adds. 

DRC’s Victim Assistance Programme is possible thanks to funding from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund and the USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance. It is supported as well through means donated by private foundations and individuals primarily in Denmark.  

*Names were changed for confidentiality purposes. 

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