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“Oxygen for Life” Program to Help Vulnerable with Critical Pandemic Medical Equipment – CUF Supporting Ukraine COVID Relief

The Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF) announced on October 1, 2021, a donation to help fight the impacts of COVID-19 in Ukraine, particularly hard hit by the fourth wave of the global pandemic. Together with partners League of Ukrainian Canadians, Dnipro-Oshawa Fund at BCU Foundation, and the Ukrainian National Federation, CUF committed a $30,000 CAD donation to support the “Oxygen for Life” Phase 2 program mounted by Kyiv-based civil society organization Initiative E+.

Transparency International has noted an acute shortage of hospital beds in Ukraine, with many COVID-19 patients not receiving required oxygen support, being discharged with low oxygen-saturation levels, and without provision of oxygen concentrators for self-management, due to shortages of equipment. 

Kyiv-based Initiative E+, which specializes in humanitarian and charitable work across Ukraine, created the “Oxygen for Life” program at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, aiming to dramatically improve the lives of vulnerable patients recovering from COVID and other respiratory comorbidities. Supported by community volunteers, Initiative E+ operates an oxygen therapy support and exchange program with the goal of addressing critical equipment shortages, and assisting patients recovering from COVID-19. The project is particularly designed to support remote communities and vulnerable populations struggling with limited access to oxygen therapy support.

CUF’s sponsorship will allow Initiative E+ to procure twenty oxygen concentrators, thus boosting its inventory of the life-saving devices by fifty percent.

Direct beneficiaries of this project will include hospitals and rural ambulatory clinics, seniors with difficulty accessing medical care, patients recovering from COVID in remote areas or with respiratory comorbidities, and long-term care residents.

“The monumental effort and delivery of oxygen and life-saving equipment from the Canada-Ukraine Foundation is desperately required,” stated Dr. John M. Quinn V, MD, MPh, PhD, expert in health diplomacy and health security, and Alumnus Scholar at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. “The unfortunate vaccine hesitancy and scattered vaccine uptake against COVID-19 evidenced with the well-below-target penetrance in almost all regions make the Delta/Delta+ variants major threats to health and growing risk to a never-ending pandemic crisis in Ukraine. The requirement for life-saving oxygen therapy throughout ICUs, hospitals and clinics can be filled with the stopgap of oxygen concentrator support.”

CUF’s goal is to support, fund and manage humanitarian, economic development, governance, and rule of law projects that focus on Ukraine. Its humanitarian missions support a reinforcement of Ukraine’s medical reform and sustainable medical development. CUF’s medical initiatives favour local projects that provide immediate assistance, benefit the most vulnerable, and will have a lasting impact. Accordingly, all equipment obtained through CUF’s sponsorship will be donated to Ukrainian medical facilities in need of oxygen therapy augmentation, post-pandemic.

“This is a prime example of how the robust Canada-Ukraine relationship, and the strong people-to-people networks between our countries can make a real difference,” said Orest Sklierenko, President and CEO of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation. “We’re proud we can identify worthwhile, lifesaving projects, complete a thorough due diligence efficiently, and deploy resources in time to make a material impact on real people’s lives. This project fits squarely in CUF’s mission and vision as demonstrated for more than 25 years.”

CUF will continue to raise funds to cover the operational expenses of the “Oxygen for Life” project, such as fuel for equipment delivery, oxygen filter replacements, and accountability monitoring. Organizations, corporations and individuals are welcome to support CUF in this effort with financial or relevant material donations. Contributions may be made online at CUF’s donation page for Medical Missions or by contacting the Canada-Ukraine Foundation.

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After a Year of Care in Canada, Triple Amputee Returns to Ukraine

In 2015, Mykola Nyzhnykovskyi arrived in Canada a triple amputee. He returned to Ukraine a year later a “cyborg.”

That’s what his sister called him after seeing him outfitted with state-of-the-art prosthetic legs and arms he’s now using thanks to the hard work and generosity of a diverse group of Canadians.

W5 first met the 11 year old Mykola in Kyiv while reporting on the work of Canadian medical professionals who volunteered to treat victims of the war that’s been raging in Ukraine’s east since 2014.

*Triple amputee Mykola Nyzhnykovskyi plays table top hockey with Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher (Brett Mitchell / W5)

At that time, Canadian surgeons removed shrapnel that had been lodged in Mykola’s face months earlier in a deadly blast that took his brother’s life. The boys had been fooling around with an unexploded munition left carelessly on an artillery range in the village of Volodarske about fifty kilometres from the front line of the military conflict.

Mykola was one of dozens of patients treated during the wartime medical missions organized by the Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF). When Shriners Children’s Hospital in Montreal learned about Mykola’s plight, they decided to extend a healing hand to the child.

What followed was a year of care in Montreal, as Mykola and his mother Alla made the journey to a distant land whose language they did not speak.

Nine different medical specialists tended to his many ailments, more than five hundred hours of care were dedicated to his recovery, led by Shriners’ Chief of Staff Dr. Reggie Hamdy.

His physiotherapist, Rochelle Rein, recalled first meeting Mykola: “He was kind of curled into himself. Hard to express, but he was just very alone,” she told W5’s Victor Malarek.

Occupational therapist Sarah Cachecho had the job of helping right-handed Mykola learn to use his left hand and a new prosthetic arm. By the end of his year in Montreal, his progress was remarkable. Mykola had grown bigger, stronger and more determined than ever to master his prosthetics and walk again.

“Mykola can now dress himself, feed himself, brush his teeth, do whatever someone has to do in their daily life,” Cachecho said.

Krystina Waler, CUF’s director of humanitarian initiatives, says Mykola is very fortunate, because he’d never had received the same level of care in Ukraine.

“Rehabilitation there would have been non-existent, the physiotherapy, the occupational therapy,” Waler explained.

Shriners covered all the medical costs, while CUF arranged accommodations, travel, food and translators through donations and volunteer work.

“To watch life being brought back into him has been an amazing journey and I can’t wait to continue watching it,” said Waler.

Mykola and Alla returned to Ukraine in late 2016, but the Canadians are not done with him yet. He’ll be back at Shriners in Montreal every year for check-ups and new fittings for his prosthetics. And the doctors of CUF’s fifth medical mission to Kyiv in February 2017 will continue working on the scars on Mykola’s face.

Nobody can bring his brother Danyo back, but Canadian generosity and hospitality did help bring back two things that weren’t there when W5 first met Mykola: hope and a smile.

Steve Bandera, W5 Associate Producer
Published Friday, February 3, 2017
Please click here to see online CTV news report

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Humanitarian/Medical News

New Branches for Dzherelo in Lviv

Dzherelo Children’s Rehab Centre in Lviv is growing new branches. No longer will all programs be provided from the one centre on Chervonoyi Kalyny Avenue. Dzherelo is expanding and developing its programming for children with special needs by getting ready to establish a sixth satellite branch!

For over 25 years, Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre has been operating as an independent facility in Lviv, focusing on the consultation, rehabilitation treatment, education and counselling of both children with special needs and their families. For too long, many of these children had been hidden from mainstream society, locked up in homes and prevented from attending school. So, while Ukraine’s education system is slowly adapting to inclusive education close to special needs students’ homes, Dzherelo is also making strides in this direction. The new Dzherelo satellite branches are located in residential neighbourhoods outside the Lviv city centre, offering services closer to the homes where the children live. These new satellite projects are necessary to reduce the stressful, costly and lengthy travel time and ultimately improve families’ quality of life.

The Dzherelo team is constantly working on updating and improving their programs. Since 2018, they have opened five satellite branches of Dzherelo in different areas of Lviv city. The satellites and expansion of programs are only possible with the City Council’s financial help, other government levels, and community fundraising. Together, with each partner’s contribution, it becomes possible to renovate, furnish, and install the facilities’ special equipment. Only then can the staff, trained at Dzherelo, begin taking in and integrating the children planning to attend.

With five branch satellites operating, the next challenge is expanding the Dzherelo Centre’s programs by opening branch No.6 in Vynnyky (a suburb of Lviv).  The facility will have a total area of nearly 300 square meters and offer daycare programs for ten younger children plus ten youths with special needs living nearby. The availability of services close to home is paramount for the children and their families health and welfare.

Lviv City Council had made a specific funding decision to allocate an appropriate building for use by Dzherelo. The local city administration provided such a building, and in due course, other government levels were also committed to funding the costs involved in building improvements and specific adaptations.  

Dzherelo satellite branch No.6 now requires about $23,000 (500 thousand hryvnias) to furnish the premises with specially adapted furniture, a projector, a computer, some mobile and ceiling lifts. 

To ensure this funding and the completion of this expansion project, Canadian donors have volunteered to supply the required portion of the costs, as indicated by the Lviv Regional (Oblast) Council’s budget proposal.  Druzi Dzherela, through the Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF), is committed to providing the promised community contribution funds.

You can donate to this worthwhile project through Druzi Dzherela in Toronto with the Canada-Ukraine Foundation’s help. Your generosity will ensure the successful and timely completion of Dzherelo satellite branch No.6 for the benefit of Lviv’s special children!

For more information about Dzherelo, please view their website at  www.dzherelocentre.org.ua.

To donate, contact the Canada-Ukraine Foundation at  https://www.cufoundation.ca/dzherelo-childrens-rehabilitation-centre/ 

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Humanitarian/Medical News

Health Advisory Committee Update

The Canada-Ukraine Foundation’s (CUF) Health Advisory Team (HAT) aims to be the partner of choice for Ukrainian healthcare institutions, NGOs, and various levels of government health ministries to build capability and capacity within Ukrainian healthcare systems and communities. Through CUF supported and sponsored programs and projects, we promote health by enabling organizations, healthcare practitioners and healthcare promotion advocates to improve the healthcare in the communities that they serve.

The Health Advisory Team was responsible for supporting and implementing a number of critical health initiatives in 2019-2020. Through its collaborations, partnerships and initiatives it was able to bring such programs as the Sunnybrook Ukraine Surgical Educational initiative formalized in September 2019, to hospitals in Lviv, Ukraine.

This three-year initiative partners the Sunnybrook Health Science Centre (through the support of the Sunnybrook Foundation and its donors, in particular, the Temerty Foundation and Ihnatowycz Foundations), Canada-Ukraine Foundation, and three hospitals in Lviv to provide education and training to medical specialists in Ukraine. Dr. Oleh Antonyshyn leads a team of surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses in providing education and training to medical specialists in Ukraine in the fields of microsurgery, craniofacial reconstruction and upper extremity reconstruction.

The program is delivered through advisory missions, live surgery demonstrations, and focused symposia, workshops and educational observerships. The first mission was conducted in October 2019 with a team of six specialists The Canadian team together, with their Ukrainian colleagues completed a total of 25 surgical procedures on patients ranging from 9 to 65 years of age. As part of the program, 138 participants, from various disciplines and from all parts of Ukraine participated in a nationwide symposium covering topics in craniofacial surgery and microsurgery organized by the Canadian team. In addition to the training provided, 460kg of medical equipment and supplies valued at $250,000 CAD was left at the hospitals for their use.

The novel coronavirus pandemic disrupted plans to launch the second mission but work is on-going to develop the initiative and implement new programs.

The pandemic restrictions brought to light other needs that CUF was able to address and support. At the start of the quarantine almost 50,000 children were sent home from orphanages “Internaty” to their biological families who were ill-equipped to welcome their children home. CUF in cooperation with Help Us Help and supported by Ukrainian Canadian Congress and MEEST and in partnership with the Ombudsman for Children with the President of Ukraine provided food and hygiene kits to 250 families in the Zhytomyr Oblast whose children were sent home due to the pandemic.

The ultimate goal of the project was to help facilitate deinstitutionalization reforms in the country that will ensure every child grows up with their family or in a similar family-like setting.

Around the globe, the pandemic is first and foremost on everyone’s mind, but the ongoing war with Russia in Eastern Ukraine isn’t far from our thoughts. The war has left thousands of Ukrainian Veterans with physical and mental trauma that the country’s health system is trying to treat. Through a generous donation by the Dnipro Cultural Centre Oshawa Fund, CUF was able to support the psychological treatment of 50 female veterans and soldiers at The Center of Psychological Counseling & Traumatherapy “Open Doors”. At the start of the project, the mental health specialists at The Open Doors Center in Kyiv provided in-person treatment to the patients, but with the pandemic, they were able to adapt to the restrictions and provide on-line services as well as treatment in the military hospital for those hospitalized. 

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Humanitarian/Medical

Ukraine 2020 Flood Relief Appeal

Ukraine 2020 Flood Relief Appeal

The Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF) and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) are calling on all Canadians to support relief efforts in Ukraine, where heavy flooding has caused devastation. The response is complicated by the current Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

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CUF’s marathon in helping Ukraine continues

By New Pathway -Dec 24, 2019

Yuri Bilinsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

The Berlin wall came down 30 years ago but psychologically it still shapes the economic and political lives of the people in Eastern Germany. Canada-Ukraine Foundation’s President Victor Hetmanczuk provided this example of how long societal change can take under the best of circumstances, at the UCC’s XXVI Congress in Ottawa in November.

The war in Ukraine has gone for six years and we do not know how long this war will continue, Victor Hetmanczuk said. When the war does end, how long is it going to take us to come up with a meaningful plan to help the people in Luhansk and Donetsk oblast? Are Ukrainians willing to pay a 5.5% solidarity tax that the Germans still pay to subsidize the construction of an equal society in Eastern Germany? Will the Ukrainian diaspora agree to pay a 5.5% tax to help rebuild the Donbas? Who is going to invest an amount comparable to $3 trillion that has been invested into Eastern Germany since late 1980s?

All these questions, which Victor Hetmanczuk posed in his speech at the Humanitarian Aid for Ukraine workshop during the Congress, demonstrate the magnitude of the problems facing Ukraine. These problems won’t be solved with band-aids, it’s going to be a marathon, he said.

This marathon for the Canada-Ukraine Foundation started in 1995 when CUF was established as a National Charitable Public Foundation. Between 2014-2018, CUF conducted 114 projects in Canada and Ukraine. Over these five years, CUF collected more than CAD 9.6 million ($4.9 million were provided by federal and provincial governments). This kind of financing puts CUF among the biggest charitable donors of Ukraine-related projects globally.

Medical supplies provided by CUF

The Foundation is also active in Canada. In 2018, it was successful in obtaining new grants for the Holodomor Bus: $1.5 million from the Federal Government and $750,000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Since the start of the Bus Tour in 2015, around 53 thousand people visited the Bus.

The Canadian Holodomor Bus project has had its repercussions even for Ukraine. During the Toronto Reform Conference in July 2019, President Zelenskyy and his wife visited the Bus at the Holodomor Monument in the CNE grounds. It made an impact on them to the point of further meetings were held in Kyiv recently that could lead to a draft Memorandum of Understanding about CUF’s participation in the building and programming of a similar bus for Ukraine.

The Holodomor Tour Bus in Ottawa

CUF has as its charitable objectives relief of poverty, advancement of education, health care and religion, assisting in observation of elections and other purposes beneficial to the community.

In Ukraine, CUF’s medical mission has consisted of the following: surgical missions, upgrading of medical skills, assistance for the Dzherelo Rehabilitation Centre, dental program for orphans and PTSD support for veterans.

Dzherelo Rehabilitation Centre

CUF’s Ukrainian medical missions have just seen a significant extension. The Foundation has signed a three-year agreement with the Sunnybrook Health Science Centre to participate in the Sunnybrook Ukraine Surgery Education Partnership located in Lviv. Within the partnership, there will be master classes for surgeons, a symposium and an observership in Toronto. In October 2019, on the first mission, 26 patients had operations done in three operation rooms simultaneously, while 138 doctors attended the one-day symposium.

Within CUF’s Ukrainian dental program, 427 orphaned children were examined and received 448 dental appointments where they had 720 dental fillings and numerous other treatments. 47 professionals and volunteers from Ukraine were involved in this program.

CUF’s Ukrainian dental program

The Defenders of Ukraine projects in 2018 were funded by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress National from the proceeds of the Invictus Games event in Toronto in 2018. These projects included Ukrainian Social Academy for “Boots to Business” entrepreneurship training program for veterans and funding for the Donbas ATO Veterans Union and Centre Poruch for psychological support of veterans and their families. The Defenders of Ukraine projects also funded the Veterans House for ATO veterans providing temporary shelter and rehabilitation programs. Pobratymy and Dopomoha Ukraini organizations funded the training in overcoming combat shock trauma and preventing PTSD for veterans.

CUF expects that its revenue in 2019 will amount to $2.3M. These funds will help the Foundation remain the focal point of the Ukrainian Canadian community’s assistance to Ukraine. One of the UCC Congress’ resolutions reads that the UCC will continue to support and augment Canadian humanitarian assistance to Ukraine through the existing mandate of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation. CUF will collaborate with UCC to coordinate, promote, help prioritize and maximize the effectiveness of aid to Ukraine. UCC’s provincial councils are encouraged to communicate to their membership CUF’s mission and objectives. Member organizations of UCC are also encouraged to access the CUF advisory groups for information, guidance and assistance.

The Foundation’s marathon in helping Ukraine overcome its hardships is continuing.

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Humanitarian/Medical

DZHERELO CHILDREN’S REHABILITATION CENTRE

Operating as an independent rehabilitation facility, Dzherelo Centre is committed to consultation, rehabilitation treatment, education and counseling of both children with disabilities and their families. The process includes early referral, assessment and implementation of an individualized treatment plan by an integrated team of qualified professionals. To read more

The Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre provides a comprehensive program of educational and rehabilitation services to children and youth with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other developmental disabilities.

Created as an alternative to the state-run institutions, or “internats”, and operating as a charitable non-profit facility, the Centre is a pioneer and model in its field not only in the city of Lviv, but in all of Ukraine.

Dzherelo is helping to build an inclusive society that welcomes people with special needs, respects their dignity and rights, appreciates their unique gifts, and provides them with opportunities to realize their full potential. 

At Dzherelo Centre a broad spectrum of educational and rehabilitation programs are offered to children and youth in three main areas:

Child Development Clinic (0-18 years of age)

Physical and psychological rehabilitation services are provided during individual and group sessions. “Early Intervention”  (0-4 years) offers assesment and implementation of a comprehensive rehabilitation program by an integrated team of qualified specialists. Families receive guidance and much needed psychological support.

Kindergarten and School (3-18 years of age)

Daily activities are conducted according to an individualized learning plan in a fully accessible environment. Children receive psychological support, speech therapy, access to alternative methods of communication, physical therapy, equine therapy, hydrotherapy and participate in cultural and recreational activities. The program also prepares children for inclusion into the regular school system.

Workshops for Youth (18-35 years of age)

Young people participate actively in programs promoting life-skills and social adaptation, creative expression and vocational training. In a friendly, nurturing environment, youth are encouraged to develop their hidden talents and grow in confidence and self-esteem. Excursions, nature walks, themed celebrations and social events are also a part of the program.

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Humanitarian/Medical

Restoring a Life – Sunnybrook’s Ukrainian Humanitarian Initiative

The Canada-Ukraine Foundation initiated the Canada-Ukraine Surgery Mission Program in 2014. The aim is to treat those most profoundly affected by the war and to equip Ukrainian medical professionals with the skills and resources to care for them. After the last mission in 2017, two individuals were identified who needed additional operations. Af ter suffering devastating injuries to his left lower face and jaw in Ukraine’s grueling war, 36-year-old Andriy Usach had one hope: the skilled specialty surgeons at Sunnybrook.  To read more about his operation, please click here.

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Humanitarian/Medical

Rehabilitation Retreats for Families

Rehabilitation Retreats for Families Affected by the Antі-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in Eastern Ukraine.

In April 2014, Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF) initiated and conducted a needs-assessment in Ukraine to identify optimal means of addressing the medical requirements of those affected by the Euromaidan protests. While the primary management of injured patients was conducted with remarkable resourcefulness, the psychological trauma endured by many required action from the CUF medical response committee.

In the Spring of 2014, psychologists from different regions of Ukraine were brought together for a training seminar on how to treat patients suffering from depression and PTSD. These same psychologists are now counseling soldiers from the frontlines, war widows and children who have subsequently become half-orphans due to the War in Eastern Ukraine.

The Program treated families affected by the ATO (in groups of approximately 40 people), from different regions of Ukraine. Those affected came together for relaxation and rehabilitation at hotel Khatky Ruslany in Vorokhta, Ukraine. Participating families were selected with guidance from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, the Security Service of Ukraine, Initiative E+, other NGOs and lists of widows provided from the volunteer battalions.Four Sessions were run in 2014 and treated 47 families (108 people in total) from Lvivska, Volynska, Ternopilska, Khmelnytska, Zhytomyrska, Kirovohradska, Sumska, Chernihivska, Kyivska, Dnipropetrovska, Kharkivska, Poltavska, Cherkaska, Vinnytska, Khersonska and Zaporizka oblasts. Participants had the opportunity to be counseled by psychologists in both private and group sessions. The hope was to provide these families with a change of environment – one in which they were able to start processing the traumatic events that they were living through – and to provide them with the skills needed to cope with their current situation once they returned back to their everyday lives.

Over one hundred widows and children whose loved ones died fighting for Ukraine’s freedom and democracy underwent a rehabilitation retreat program, organized and sponsored by CUF. The families underwent assessment by professionals and received psychological counseling, participated in life skills workshops, grief counseling seminars, projective art and music therapy sessions. A comfortable and trusting environment and nutritious meals at the hotel complex in conjunction with the aforementioned program were all part of a daily holistic approach aiding in the process of total recovery of the rehabilitation participants. The rehab programs‘ success isevidenced by the post-treatment assessments by psychologists and widows comments in the Ukrainian portion of this report.

The Rehab Retreat Program is a cornerstone for further development of similar programs which currently are unprecedented in Ukraine. The network of The Rehab Retreat Program‘s participants has gone on to work within their own community: Many of the participants have even initiated their own programs, for example one widow has set up a prosthetics rehab center for victims of the War. News of the Rehab Retreat program funded by CUF is spreading: participants have gone on to share their knowledge, skills and contact information acquired during the retreat with other individuals who are affected by the Anti Terrorist Operation in Ukraine – the waiting list is growing every day.

Canada-Ukraine Foundation is now in the process of planning to operate four more in first half of 2015.

Report prepared by: Help Us Help the Children under Dopomoha Ukraini and New Generation International Charitable Fund.

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Humanitarian/Medical

Canadian Doctors Rebuild Bodies Shattered by War in Ukraine

Medical mission sees volunteers providing reconstructive surgery to wounded soldiers and civilians

A team of 20 Canadian medical professionals, including surgeons, anesthetists, and nurses, are in Ukraine on a mission to offer reconstructive surgery to soldiers and civilians wounded in the conflict in the country’s eastern regions.

Dr. Steve McCabe and Dr. Reid Chambers complete a hand surgery in the Central Military Hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Anton Skyba)

During the summer of 2016, in one tragic moment, Evgen Redka lost his friend, his left eye, and the ability to anonymously walk the streets without the concentrated stares of strangers.

The young Ukrainian soldier was nearly killed when the vehicle he was in drove over an anti-tank mine in Eastern Ukraine.

The blast left Redka with excruciating scarring on his face and body, but with help from a specialized team of Canadian medical professionals, there’s hope that Redka will once again be able to lead a more normal life.

A team of 20 Canadian medical professionals, including surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses, worked out of an old Soviet-built hospital in Kyiv on a 10-day mission to offer reconstructive surgery to soldiers and civilians wounded during the conflict in the country’s eastern regions.

Dr. Oleh Antoyshyn, head surgeon of the mission, fills out a medical record for Evgen Redka before the soldier undergoes an operation. (Anton Skyba)

The workload is unprecedented, but there is no shortage of volunteers willing to work long hours for free, said Oleh Antonyshyn, head of the Adult Craniofacial Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Toronto.

“The days are 12, 14 or 16 hours long,” Dr. Antonyshyn told CBC News, shortly before an aide whisked him away to inspect another traumatic case. “But still we have many, many more people applying than we have room for.”

Torontonian Dr. Harry Foster and Winnipeg native Dr. Adrian Hawaleshka are veterans of the mission, which has been in Ukraine three times in the last five years.

I’m just hoping I can use my skills to give them back a bit of hope.

Dr. Harry Foster

While the missions, organized by the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, are mainly funded by private donations, the team did receive government support in 2016. They’re also supported by Stryker Canada, which provides all surgical hardware and implant materials for the medical procedures.

Dr. Hawaleshka feels connected here as a Canadian of Ukrainian heritage, but both doctors say they want the chance to make a lifelong impact in the lives of people who otherwise would likely never get the specialized care the Canadians can offer.

Nurse Ella Bakh, centre, records patient details after a surgery. (Anton Skyba)

“A lot of these guys are solemn, and you can tell that they’ve lost hope at a young age,” says Dr. Foster. “I’m just hoping I can use my skills to give them back a bit of hope.”

Canadian medical professionals — including craniofacial reconstructive plastic surgeons, microsurgeons, neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, GPs, nurses and physical therapists — have now completed over 300 reconstructive procedures on a total of 127 patients through the mission.

Operating on 10-year-old Mykola

In 2015, they operated on a 10-year-old boy named Mykola, who was wounded by a blast in Eastern Ukraine. The boy lost both of his legs and one arm, and sustained dramatic shrapnel damage to his face and body.

He was brought via train to the Canadian doctors by a Ukrainian volunteer who’d heard about the medical mission on the news. The doctors operated on him almost immediately to help alleviate some of the scarring on the young boy’s face and to pull bits of shrapnel from his body.

Eventually, they helped send him to Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal, where he stayed for one year while receiving prosthetic limbs and relearning how to walk.

Dr. Oleh Antonshyn, head surgeon for the mission, checks X-rays during the pre-op day. (Anton Skyba)

At first, the patients included civilians shot by government snipers during Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan revolution, but now virtually all the patients are Ukrainian soldiers. Their injuries are all sustained on the front lines and run the gauntlet from almost inconceivable burns and disquieting cases of facial trauma, to more minor but still debilitating wounds.

The soldiers are victims of the war in Eastern Ukraine, which began in the early spring of 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and quietly began sending troops and military equipment across the border into Ukrainian territory.

Combined Russian-separatist forces have fought the Ukrainian military since the spring of 2014. The fighting has now taken the lives of more than 9,750 people and wounded over 20,000 according to official UN figures, while displacing more than 1.8 million people from their homes.

Soldier trained by Canadians

Most of the Ukrainian soldiers seeking treatment will never be able to serve again.

At least one, Valeri Skachka, 24, recalled being trained by Canadian soldiers stationed in Western Ukraine during Operation Unifier.

“They just operated at such a serious level,” said Skachka of his time with the Canadian troops. “It was eye-opening to see that level of organization and equipment.”

Valeri Skachka shows his certificate of participation in Unifier traning, a day after he had hand surgery from the Canadian surgery mission to Ukraine. (Anton Skyba)

Skachka is currently eager to return to the fighting, after surgery on his hand.

In two days of consultations, Dr. Antonyshyn and his team saw dozens of patients to determine whether they can be offered treatment. That’s followed by five gruelling days of intricate surgery.

And although U.S. President Trump’s commitment to Ukraine in the conflict, established under the Obama administration, has been called into question, a set of U.S. Army onlookers joined the Canadian team for this mission.

U.S. Army Major Justin Miller made the trip from Germany as part of a six-person detachment from the American military who are hoping to replicate the Canadian medical mission for their own standalone aid program for Ukraine.

“We’re in the early stages of planning for the U.S. mission,” Miller, a veteran of the Iraq War, told CBC News. “But being here and seeing the amount of injuries and disfigurements from war, I can tell you it’s been awhile since we’ve seen this on our side.”


Dr. Todd Mainprize, head of neurosurgery at Sunnybrook Health Sciences, finishes his operation in Kyiv Central Military Hospital. (Anton Skyba)