It’s been over six months since Russia invaded Ukraine. The fighting continues in the eastern part of the nation, but there is no sign of either side letting up. Nearly 30,000 people have died and some 14 million have been displaced, including around half of the country’s children. Most are now scattered across Europe and abroad, millions of miles from home. Those who stayed have since turned their focus to the frontlines.
Hundreds of medical professionals from all over the world are stepping up to help the men and women fighting for Ukraine in the Donbas region, near the Russian border.
Rebekah Maciorowski was one of them. She recently returned to her hometown of Broomfield, Colorado after a months-long stint volunteering just outside of an active warzone.
She didn’t hesitate when the new of the invasion was announced in late February.
“I think everybody watched the news in February, early March, and was like, “Oh, this is horrible. Somebody should do something,”” Maciorowski said Monday. “I didn’t want to be a part of the bystanders. I wanted to jump in and help.”
She took a leave of absence from her nursing job and arrived in Ukraine in March.
Her skills were immediately put to the test.
“What I saw was really sad, it’s really sad. Just complete devastation of people’s homes, people’s grocery stores, hospitals,” she said.
She served with a group of emergency healthcare providers with a non-profit known as Hospitallers. Her time was spent managing evacuations, picking up and attending to soldiers injured in combat, and transporting them to the nearest hospital.
“You could fit up to four in our ambulance to the hospital, and you immediately… you’re still washing the blood out of the ambulance. You get a call, “OK, you have to go back. There’s another one,”” Maciorowski said.
The assignment came with plenty of heartbreak. She lost several patients before they could reach the ER.
“You look at the birth date, and you’re like, “How was he… how was he even fighting?”” Maciorowski said.
She remembers helping residents and civilians flee their homes, usually with only a few minutes to gather their belongings.
“We saw a lot of pets left behind. People didn’t have the resources to evacuate their animals, so I became the dog mom of the village we were in, which was… that was a fun role,” Maciorowski said.
And most of them would never return to the life they once knew.
Now that she’s back home in the U.S., she is doing her part to spread word of the crisis in Ukraine and what it was like to serve there.
“”Please tell people what’s happening. Show them what’s happening,”” she recalled them telling her. “Because they really believe that if people understood and saw what was happening over there, surely they wouldn’t let it continue.”
She noted that many Ukrainians are worried about being forgotten as the world turns its attention away from the war.
Maciorowski isn’t done yet. She plans on going back to Ukraine next month to support the resistance.