Translated excerpts are from the book “Maidan. Testimony. Kyiv 2013-2014” and are published upon the publisher’s consent.
The book was compiled by Leonid Finberg and Ulyana Holovach and published by Dukh i Litera publishing house in 2016. The original text is in Ukrainian.
I first came to the Maidan on the night of February 18, during the hottest events. I got there very easily because I knew what was going on and could not stay at home. Therefore, I got into a car together with my wife, and first we went to deliver medicines to the hospitals. At that time Olga Bogomolets was providing information about hospitals and required medicines. After we delivered the medicines, we arrived at Mykhaylivskyi (St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Cathedral). I went to the refectory, at night, and set to work immediately. And I had already left Mykhaylivskyi when the medical aid station was moving to Tryokhsviatytelska (street), to the hospital. In fact, all these days I was there. The whole time I was there, in the refectory, because there was so much work to do.
There were many wounded – ambulances brought them, volunteers brought them in their cars. We had 8 operating tables and they were occupied all the time. One or two surgeons worked at each table. We tried to arrange it so that there were two surgeons, two nurses. Everyone was busy because there were many wounded, and the wounds were different. The surgery operated at full capacity.
Actually, it was the time of surgeons. As soon as one patient was taken off the operating table, another patient was put on it. I left the operating room on the second day. The only “calm” period was when Berkut special police force surrounded St. Michael’s Cathedral. Ambulances could not reach us, volunteers could not bring people in their cars and we spent two hours under siege. After the clergymen of St. Michael’s Cathedral came out and talked to the people who had besieged us, they let ambulances pass. Then, I do not know what changed, volunteers were able to break through in their cars and bring the wounded. Automaidan activists brought a lot of people.
My wife was constantly at my side. She is not a doctor. She was a volunteer – to help, to bring, to hold. She works at the Academy of Sciences.
Are you a surgeon?
Surgeon-ophthalmologist. This is a surgical specialty; so of course, I know how to provide surgical care. The wounds were mostly caused by explosions of percussion grenades which Berkut, or I do not know who, converted into ball grenades. The grenades changed from percussion into ball because they used adhesive tape or scotch tape to fasten some metal, glass, plastic parts to those percussion grenades. When they exploded, they did not just make a noise, but flew apart in a lot of fragments and wounded people. There were a lot of gunshot wounds, made by smoothbore guns – shot, buckshot, some homemade bullets… Many were wounded by rubber bullets at close range. When at close range, then there was a large lesion area.
What was the most difficult operation you performed in the Maidan?
I had a guy whose whole body was covered with lacerations from those packages. From head to toe, we had to debride, sew, extract plastic and metal parts almost every 5-10 cm. It took us a lot of time. He was very seriously wounded. We managed to nurse him back to health and then he called us and thanked.
What about my profile. This was on the 19th, in the afternoon. There was a man who was injured, his upper and lower eyelids and cheek were cut, and he had a penetrating wound in the eye. We did our best to provide first aid, sewed the wounds. As I work in the Center of Eye Microsurgery, of course, I appealed to the administration asking to take the patient to our hospital. We needed a microscope, because if it is an eye surgery, you must have special equipment. It is simply impossible to do this without a microscope and special equipment. The administration forbade doing it, and we had to send this patient to his place of residence in Cherkasy after primary clinical treatment. I know the fate of this patient too, because we contacted him. He lost an eye, and I’m very sorry about it. This is because many hospitals behaved so at the time.
Can you describe some of the doctors or volunteers with whom you communicated closest at the time, what kind of people were they?
I communicated with the medical emergency team that worked with us. It was a far table in the refectory, “reanimation table”, as they called it … They almost did not leave Mykhaylivskyi till the end. These people are Kolya Linko, he works as a surgeon in the 1st Kyiv hospital; Vitaliy, who is a pediatrician- resuscitator in Okhmatdyt. And two more doctors – Nastya Lemonova and Natalia Chubata, they also work in intensive care. We worked together there. Then we moved to the hospital at Tryokhsviatytelska, 7. We were a big team, so we worked in shifts. During those days we teamed up, and when some other person came, we could not find a common language. It was important to make quick decisions under pressure. It’s really good when people are quick to understand each other, when you do not even need to say what you want. Other people who worked with us were Lara Arneva, a nurse from Donetsk and Alyona Sotnikova, also an operating nurse. They were my nurses with whom we worked at the operating table. Liliya Bondarenko, a cardiologist, really helped us. I can mention more and more names. Andriy Holovatenko was a very professional, knowing doctor. He works in some private clinic, but was with us all the time and operated on at Mykhaylivskyi.
Were the wounded from the Maidan admitted to the Eye Microsurgery Center?
Our hospital showed a mean spirit during the Maidan events. It is specialized hospital and can provide a professional help that cannot be provided by other hospital. For example, Olexandriya Hospital, where all persons with eye injuries from Maidan were directed to, has neither such specialists nor such equipment as we have. But our medical director decided not to participate in this, and the clinic refused to admit the wounded. We had to steal Maidan activists, who turned to us by themselves, through the windows, because the police called them in for questioning. We “stole” our patients through the windows in the admission room so that they were not ratted out. Because when people in our admission room learned about patients from Maidan, they called the police and ratted out the activists. So, we gave all possible first aid to the wounded and then they were taken out of the hospital. They completed their treatment in other hospitals. We changed their names and diagnoses so that the administration did not know who they were.
Please tell us about it in more detail.
The medical director officially ordered that all departments of the Eye Microsurgery Center admit only patients with children’s traumas. The announcements of non-admission of patients with other traumas appeared on the Eye Microsurgery Center website and door. That is why ambulances just did not take the wounded to us. Although our center was nearly empty, there were very few patients at that time. Patients who turned to us by themselves were given first aid by our doctors.
In the morning, the head of the admission department immediately called in the police patrols. That is why we took our patients out from the hospital. Automaidan activists helped us a lot; they provided us with cars. There was also another way: our patients invented certain names, and we diagnosed them with some kind of home injury. Usually our administration takes no interest in patients’ diagnoses. Thus, we managed to help some people. But now, when they are handling the paperwork for disability after such injuries, we cannot issue corresponding documents to them. The administration still stands in opposition to all of us, Maidan activists doctors. Me, as well as all our other doctors who worked on the Maidan, have been deprived of the right to conduct surgery for three months already. We are repressed at work. They do not let us work. And we cannot give a document that a person was injured, because the administration hinders this process.
How many people from Maidan were secretly given assistance at your medical center?
You mean Maidan activists? As to statistics … I don’t think there were a lot of them. As far as I know, all in all, it was officially given to 8 persons. It’s official statistics. Many of our doctors and professors conducted surgeries in other clinics. We were on the phone, called each other. Private clinics also provided free assistance, gave materials and allowed our surgeons to operate on people using their equipment.
Can you single out certain groups of Maidan participants by age, region or motives?
There were patients from almost all regions of the country. Apparently, every region was represented on the Maidan. There were Crimeans. I thought that Crimeans, people from Donetsk or Dnipropetrovsk would not participate in the Maidan events. But there were many of them. Doctors who had come specially to help from Luhansk, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk also treated them. By age – we treated boys and girls aged 16 and older, as well as patients aged 70-80.