On the war’s first anniversary, a frontline medical team reveals its personal ordeals—and ethical challenges.
ILLUSTRATION BY KHOA TRAN. PHOTOGRAPH BY ANNA TSYHYMA.
A year ago, immediately after Russian troops closed in on Snihurivka, in southern Ukraine, the staff at the town’s large regional hospital rallied to treat the constant stream of wounded civilians and combatants. What these medical professionals didn’t realize, however, was that for the next nine months they would be forced to coexist with the hospital’s new overseers: the invading commanders and soldiers themselves.
When the Geneva Convention was created after World War II, one of its intentions was to protect hospitals and their personnel from attack. But doctors and nurses who remained at the facility throughout the occupation of Snihurivka reported that armed Russian fighters subjected them to interrogations, physical harassment, death threats, and demands for expensive medical equipment, which the soldiers sought to appropriate to help treat their own wounded. According to regional authorities, 32 hospitals in the same area as Snihurivka fell under Russian control in the past year and 45 were damaged due to military action. (All have now been liberated by Ukrainian forces.) In just five Ukrainian regions alone, researchers at the Reckoning Project know of 748 medical facilities that have been occupied at different times in 2022.
This report presents the first full chronicle of one hospital staff’s agonizing choices and circumstances, even as they continued to serve the Ukrainians and Russians in their care.
Read the full story in Vanity Fair here.