"I like Latvia, I like to work at Vidzeme Hospital," Tetyana said in Latvian, apologizing for not speaking properly yet. She is learning the language. "It's a hard language. We go to the teacher, of course, colleagues help, patients help too."
Although it has been nearly a year since the Russian invasion began in Ukraine, Tetyana and Serhiy remember that morning vividly: "Yes, it's a like a terrible dream … In the morning we, the whole family, awoke to the sounds of explosions. The husband quickly grabbed the phone and called his friends at the border guard, they say, Serhiy, it's war!"
The city of Volchansk, where Tetyan and Serhiy lived, is in the Russian border area. The occupying troops entered there on the first day of the war.
“In a panic, I packed my bags, dressed up my children, and I didn't know what to do next, but then I had a call and quickly had to be at work. We started to organize help,” Tetyana said.
In the early days of the war, four Ukrainian army soldiers were brought into their hospital, who had to be helped secretly so that the occupants could not find out. “We dressed them in civilian clothes, but we hid the uniforms. So they could get treated, but then we brought them out in the quiet,” she said.
The three months the family spent in the occupied city were full of fear and insecurity.
“It was horrible! They started looting, took away people's cars, and immediately set up a prison in the factory rooms, and if someone wasn't agreeing with them in one thought, they were put in jail and tortured. Then medics and doctors started to be put in jail. They were not bothered by the need for help for patients, civilians. It didn't concern anyone,” Tetyana said.
“We lived in fear all the time! You live with the idea that you don't know when they'll come, when they'll come after me,” Serhiy said.
That prompted their escape, though getting out of the occupied territory wasn't easy. However, they succeeded in reaching Latvia, Valmiera, and also in finding work at Vidzeme Hospital. The hospital team helped to start a new life.
“They work really responsibly in their profession, their experience is huge. In Ukraine, they were responsible personnel of the emergency team, and also at the moment, colleagues are appreciating how much support they are in our current shortage of existing personnel for treatment. We also helped them to settle the register of a medical practitioner so that they could fully work as medical practitioners. We have also cooperated with the Latvian Medical Foundation, they offer financial support to these Ukrainian employees who are medical practitioners,” said Sanita Kandele, head of staff management of the hospital.
There are currently six Ukrainian war refugees working at Vidzeme Hospital.
Tetyana and Serhiy are pleased about work and life in Valmiera, but they are very keen on getting home, and there are many relatives left in Ukraine.
“Really want to go home, because home is home, and the family is there. I think anyway we will win, Ukraine will win and we will go home,” Tetyana said.