Canada-Ukraine Foundation

(CUF)

Welcome

Multi-award winning “Recovery Room”, directed by Adriana Luhovy, received a standing ovation at the Toronto Premiere of the feature documentary film, organized and sponsored by BCU Foundation (Buduchnist Credit Union). With over 300 in attendance, the screening was held at Old Mill Guildhall, on March 22. Among special guests was Andriy Veselovsky, Consul General of Ukraine to Toronto.

Opening welcome remarks were given by the evening’s Master of Ceremony Ivanna Baran-Purkiss, director of corporate communications BCU. She called upon Roman Medyk, chair, board of directors, BCU Foundation who outlined the work of the Foundation in support of Ukrainian Canadian projects and expressed his delight to present “Recovery Room”.

Medyk was followed by special guest Dr. Oleh Antonyshyn, head of the Canadian humanitarian medical mission to Ukraine, organized by the Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF). Dr. Antonyshyn mentioned the contribution Adriana Luhovy’s documentary is having in telling the story. He gave an overview of the work done by CUF and its president Victor Hetmanczuk, thanking all the medical volunteers that dedicated their time on the medical missions. With many of the volunteers present at film premiere, Dr. Antonyshyn asked the medical professionals in the audience, with whom Adriana worked, to stand, acknowledged with a round of applause. Many of these volunteers were interviewed by Adriana for the documentary, while in Kyiv. Oksana Kuzyshyn, president of the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women, spoke about the upcoming Medical Mission which will be held in Odesa.

Speaking next was special guest Sylvie Monette of KPMG-Montreal, who, through a chance acquaintance and continued friendship with Luhovy, closely followed Adriana’s efforts in making the documentary. Monette, who appears in the film, travelled with Adriana to Ukraine to see first hand the Maidan, meet the soldiers, and learn about the story. She also made a surprise announcement, that Luhovy will be a recipient of a “One Woman Fearless” Award to be presented by Concordia University at the Montreal Women’s Summit, at Loyola campus on April 21. The award is for recognizing a woman living fearlessly, “using her gifts to serve or inspire others”, exemplified by her work on the documentary “Recovery Room”.

Speaking last, Baran-Purkiss called upon Luhovy, after presenting her short biography and mentioning the eleven international awards the documentary has received. Luhovy thanked all present and spoke briefly about giving back to the community; her years of volunteer work as a student with orphan children in Ukraine for Help Us Help the Children. While in New York, having worked for a human rights organization, Adriana received an invitation by CUF to join the CUF medical their mission as their photographer, which resulted in her decision to film, to ensure the story of the ongoing war, its impact and the humanitarian efforts was documented.

Luhovy shared her personal story, overcoming inner hurdles, having been emotionally affected by doing interviews, capturing stories of the wounded soldiers and being in the operating room at the Kyiv Main Military Clinical Hospital, while filming. She also shared, for the first time, how as a student she lived through the horrors at Montreal Dawson College shooting in 2006, fleeing for her life, with the shooter just above her in the College atrium. Flashbacks of both the college shooting and the emotional effect of documenting the stories of the wounded soldiers and medical personnel in Kyiv, still affect her. Adriana thanked BCU Foundation for their generous support of this film project from its early beginnings, the Shevchenko Foundation, as well as the support from many in the community without which the film could not be made. She mentioned the film was a two-and-a-half year team effort, thanking producer-editor Yurij Luhovy, producer Zorianna Hrycenko and Oksana Rozumna, script editor. In Hrycenko’s remarks, she mentioned how the documentary helps reinforce the continued efforts of Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), CUF, and community organizations in helping Ukraine come through a war, now in its fourth year.

During the film screening, the audience sat motionless, amid laughter and tears. After the film, Adriana Luhovy was moved by the warm and spontaneous response. Among remarks about “Recovery Room” were, “an important document that captured both facts and emotions”, and “inspirational, heartbreaking … extremely moving documentary that will ignite global interest about the war in Ukraine and Russian aggressive and its brutal tactics”.

The film was accompanied by an exhibit of over 20 of Adriana’s photographs of the CUF medical missions, brought to Toronto from Montreal by BCU Foundation. A reception followed. The evening was filmed by director Stephan Bandera and his film crew for Forum TV which will air shortly. A Ukrainian-language version of the documentary “Recovery Room” is in production. The documentary is under the patronage of UWC. A screening of “Recovery Room” will be held at Concordia University in Montreal, end of April.

The whole country remembers her face: 21-year old Olesia Zhukovska was that young volunteer medic who received a gunshot wound on Maidan on February 20, 2014 – on the most tragic day of the standoff between activists and law enforcement. She has miraculously survived, unlike dozens of other activists who died of gunshot wounds that day. While inside the ambulance she posted a goodbye message on social media saying: “I am dying”. Luckily, the girl survived.

UCMC spoke with Olesia four years after that tragic day asking her how she remembers February 20, 2014, as well as what her life turned to be like afterward, what her today’s dreams are and what she thinks about the changes in the country.

“For me, there were two Maidans: a kind, bright, and peaceful one, and a bloody and dark one…”
Olesia Zhukovska was born in Krements, Ternopil region, in western Ukraine. Her father is an animal farm worker, her mother is a nurse. She graduated from a medical college in Kremenets and started working as a nurse.
She first came to Maidan on December 4, 2013. She was staying in the tent city and in the buildings of the Trade Unions House and of the Kyiv City State Administration the protestors had seized. Olesia was a volunteer paramedic, on Maidan she was making medical shifts, bringing the medicine to those who needed it as well as consulting the patients at a medical point set up at the Kyiv city state administration. She turned 21 in January 2014.

“Olesia, 21 years old, from Kremenets, Ternopil region. She came to Maidan on December 4. She was the only girl alongside 16 guys on the bus heading to Maidan. She knew no one. Last time before that she was in Kyiv when she was an eighth-grader. She was very much indignant at the beating of students by the Berkut riot police on November 30. The first time she came for five days and was just talking to people. Throughout all that time, Olesia was traveling back and forth to Kyiv from home more than ten times. She actually lost count. She volunteered in the kitchen, on December 31 she started being a volunteer medic. The girl has a college diploma of a medical assistant. On January 19 she worked at Hrushevsky street, exactly when the situation escalated.

‘At night, on January 20, a stun grenade fell beside me, it stunned me a bit. It was the first time I got really scared,’ she says.” Kristina Berdynskykh, journalist, author of #maidaners project on the Maidan activists.   

For me, there were two Maidans: a kind, bright and peaceful one, and a bloody and dark one ..,” Olesia Zhukovska wrote on Facebook on November 17, 2014.
On Maidan she made friends and found like-minded people, she was leaving it only at times when she had to go home, mostly to get treatment, as the nights spent on Maidan resulted in her getting a cold or tonsillitis. In February 2014, Olesia went to a hospital, she checked herself out of the hospital three days before February 20.
“During her volunteering times, Olesia met many people. With a special warmth, she speaks about the ‘hell’s barrel’ near the column. It was a tent, a warm-up point. People from different regions came there – from Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Poltava, Ternopil. When the February 18 events commenced, the tent got burnt down.
Olesia got ill several times, she had tonsillitis and a cough. She was going back home to get treatment, was getting better and went back on Maidan. On February 17 she checked out of the local hospital and the next day departed to Kyiv. On February 19, she was already on Maidan, she was on shift all day and all night long until 4am. ‘I just came and I wanted to do more,’ Olesia explains.” Kristina Berdynskykh, journalist, author of #maidaners project on the Maidan activists.   

“I got this photo sent to me today for the first time. February 19, 2014. This is the medical point on Prorizna Street. The photo was taken by Mykola Vlasenko – medic at the two Maidans and medic in the combat zone.”  Olesia Zhukovska, Facebook post of February 20, 2018.

“I was holding the wounded artery with my hand”
On February 20, Olesia woke up in the morning and went to the Mykhailivsky [St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery – UCMC] to pick the medicines – she wanted to take it to the medical point by the Christmas tree. On her way back from the Mykhailivsky she stopped by the Lyadski gates on Maidan as she met her friends from the “hell’s barrel”. She looked at her watch, it was 11.37. At 11.40 she got shot by a sniper.
“We did not know exactly what was going on on Instytutska street. I was the first to get wounded in that location. I did not understand what was happening. The guy standing opposite from me told me: ‘Sweetie, you got wounded.’ Then I put my head down and realized that my coat got steeped in blood from the top to the bottom in a second,” Olesia told in a commentary to UCMC.

“I did not faint for a second, there was an ambulance car standing nearby. The guys walked me to it supporting my arms. As I was walking, I was holding the traumatized artery so that the blood would not come out. I got into the ambulance and sent what I then thought to be a ‘goodbye message’ from my phone.” Today Olesia is laughing as she remembers that moment. Back then the message flew around the world, while her photo made shortly after when she was wounded and the two words on the social media were quickly picked by nearly all international media.”  

“We have to fight! It’s our country!”
After the injury Olesia was operated, she stayed at the Kyiv hospital no.17 for 11 days. Luckily, the bullet did not hit the carotid artery. On March 2 she ran away to Maidan again. “I am going to Maidan today, I can’t just be staying at hospital listening to the news, I will go to Maidan, at least for a little while! We have to fight! It’s our country!” she wrote on Facebook on March 2, 2014.   
Later, after she checked out from the hospital, she visited France as part of the mission headed by Petro Poroshenko on March 7-13. During the visit, she met the President of France François Hollande.
“Right after the injury, I went abroad, to meet the President of France François Hollande. My mission was to testify what happened on Maidan,” Olesia told UCMC.

The investigation
The investigation as to the killings on Maidan started straight away, however, it has provided no convincing results or, most importantly, sentences or actual imprisonments, even four years after those events. [Read also: “Four Years after the Maidan, How Is the Investigation Going?”] Olesia, same as other victims, was testifying. “There was an investigation. Six months after I was summoned by an investigator, then by another one. I was testifying, same as everyone else did, helped with investigative experiments. I was told that it was a Berkut policeman who had shot me and who then fled to Russia and that the weapons were destroyed. I did not even memorize his surname,” the girl said. It does not look like Olesia is into taking revenge on her abuser. She is just on to another day.

A new life
After the Maidan, she decided to seriously dedicate herself to medicine. Before the Maidan events, a graduate of a medical college, she used to work as a medical assistant in the village, but actually wanted more. In summer 2014, she entered the Bohomolets National Medical University in Kyiv and has been living in a student’s dormitory since then.
Despite the widespread information on the corrupt nature of medicine in the country and the medical education, in particular, Olesia entered the university without any problems, to study free of charge. She was accepted straight to the second year of study, as she was already in possession of a basic medical degree. It may well be that having become recognizable in the country after her injury on Maidan, it played to her credit in course of the selection, but Olesia is not aware of it. She says she has not been facing corruption in the university. “My classmates are all contract-based students [who officially pay for their studies – UCMC], the marks they get are the result of how they study,” she says.
Olesia finds studying exciting, but it is quite demanding. She is in her fifth year now, there’s one more year to go, and the compulsory internship afterward. She has little free time left, but in four years she took part in many volunteer projects. “Whenever I have spare time, I go to animal shelters, to the military hospital. With a friend of mine we also went to help weave the masking camouflage nets for the military,” she says.
Neurology and gastroenterology are the medical branches that she is most attracted to. “My dream is to become a gastroenterologist, a nutritionist,” Olesia says.
The girl got seriously keen on eating healthy and on a healthy lifestyle, over the last year she herself lost 16kg. She says she is not planning to stop there. “It was hard to get started, and it is hard to continue, it’s a big job, well, what can I do, I actually like it.”
“I love myself and I want to be a better version of myself,” she explains.

Olesia is 25 now. Every year, on February 20, journalists write her and recall the events of this day four years ago. Olesia says she is flattered that they remember her, but does not really like to give interviews.
She does not comment on the Ukrainian reforms and preferred not to say whom she plans to vote for in the upcoming elections. “Of course, there is disenchantment and sadness, but I think, everything must not happen at once. We did our internal revolution, while the aggressor state attacked us. Who could have foreseen that?” she says.
The girl considers the date of February 20 to be her second birthday, and has no regrets about anything. “I have no regrets, I regret neither coming to Maidan, nor my injury. It is an important lesson to me. When I took to Maidan, I wanted the changes in the country and in my life. It is exactly what happened.

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It is hard to believe that it has been 4 years since the Revolution of Dignity started in Kyiv. From the outset, Canada-Ukraine Foundation (CUF), through the generous donations of the Ukrainian Canadian Community, started to assist the injured from the Maidan with medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. Later, in the fall of 2014, we started restorative surgeries on the victims of the Russian aggression through our Medical Missions. Our fifth Mission was completed in March 2017 – a total of 300 surgical operations have been done on 178 patients. 97 hand therapy procedures were done as well for those who did not require an operating room.

CUF had been concentrating its efforts on wounded adults and not on another vulnerable segment of society – the children in orphanages.

During the fifth Mission, I was introduced to Stepan Terletsky who is an orphan advocate in Ukraine. Stepan is the director of Mercy Trucks Ukraine who have been working for the past 7 years on dental issues of children at orphanages using a dental mobile clinic and a team of volunteer dentists and hygienists.

Why worry about dental issues? What’s the connection between oral health and overall health?

Like many areas of the body, your mouth is teeming with bacteria — most of them harmless. Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care, such as daily brushing and flossing, can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

In addition, certain medications — such as decongestants, antihistamines, painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can reduce saliva flow. Saliva washes away food and neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, helping to protect you from microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease.

Studies also suggest that oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases. In addition, certain diseases, such as diabetes, can lower the body’s resistance to infection, making oral health problems more severe.

Every child living in an institution needs a tooth treatment

Problems:

  • 100% of children have dental caries;
  • Premature loss of milk and permanent teeth;
  • No defect and teeth abnormalities identification.

Consequences:

  • Children in orphanages live in difficult social conditions therefore are more vulnerable to the development of various pathological conditions;
  • The dental hygiene of children in the institutions is not provided and controlled by staff;
  • The state does not provide preventive maintenance and treatment of a teeth to children;
  • Dental services for children in orphanages are not available;
  • Only 4% of necessary foundation for medical service provided by government;
  • Children with “Delayed mental development” need special approach during the treatment process;
  • Children are not provided with preventive examinations, the problem solved by removing the teeth instead of treatment!

How was this possible?

When we look at the budget for orphanages it becomes very clear.

  • 106,000 children are living in orphanages in Ukraine;
  • 1.5 % of Ukraine’s children population live in orphanages;
  • There are 751 orphanages in Ukraine.

Financing:

$ 240 million US was spent by the government on the orphanages in 2016. This is $2,264.15/year per child or $6.20/day per child. However, 85% of this amount is spent on staffing and building maintenance, the orphans must get by on $ 1/day.

From this $1.00, only $0.01 is allocated for all health treatments. $0.87 goes for food.
In 2016, there was $10,000,000 US of charitable assistance donated for orphanages in addition to the Government support.

Only 7% are true orphans, the rest are economic orphans – their families cannot afford to keep them at home.

So how could CUF not respond to this appeal? We signed on for a pilot program of four sites in Odessa Oblast for 2017.

The summary of these four missions is as follows:

372 children were examined; 384 dental appointments were made;
568 dental fillings; 56 teeth extractions; 54 dental cleaning and 33 canal treatments.
All this was done by 47 professionals and volunteers: 18 dentists; 28 assistants; 1 coordinator

The details by site are as follows:

All dentists and assistants provided their services free of charge;
Expenses were for: dental medical suppliers and materials; gasoline for mobile dental clinic; transportation for doctors and assistants; food for doctors and volunteers, etc.  General budget for 4 missions: $ 8,000 CDN. That works out to $21.50 CDN per child!

It is now clear to us that further work is required, and the costs are extremely reasonable. CUF has started discussions about a 10-site program for 2018 if volunteers are available. This will only mean a cost of $ 20,000 CDN. In addition, because the truck is now 10 years old, we will be preparing a replacement budget item for this as well. The impact on these children is without measure.

Psalm 10: 17-18 …. Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will listen to their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so people can no longer terrify them.

Please donate generously to Canada-Ukraine Foundation – Dental Mobile Clinic

By New Pathway  – Jan 23, 2018

Victor Hetmanczuk for NP-UN, Toronto.

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.

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)

Canada-Ukraine Foundation’s (CUF) medical missions in Ukraine have been widely popularised by Victor Malarek on the CTV’s W5 show. Since 2014, CUF has sponsored four missions and the fifth mission to Ukraine started on February 25, 2017. Within the CUF missions, Canadian surgeons and nurses have completed 244 operations on 137 Ukrainian activists and soldiers wounded during the Maidan revolution in 2014 and the subsequent war in Eastern Ukraine.

Every mission lasts for about one week, during which the Canadians try to help as many patients as humanly possible which means a lot of gruelling work with very little rest. But it is also a very gratifying work as the Canadian medics are curing the patients which have very little hope of being helped in Ukraine because of the limitations of the Ukrainian hospitals. The Canadians mainly accept the most difficult cases that require cranial and facial operations, as well as hand therapy. When the mission comes back, the doctors invite previous patients for checkups. As Victor Hetmanczuk, CUF president, put it, “Our help is impactful on the people and their families because we are changing their quality of life.”

This time, the Canadian mission includes six US military medical professionals, a surgeon and five nurses, who are observing how CUF runs a mission in Ukraine. As Victor Hetmanczuk told us, the US military doctors would like to do orthopaedic master classes in Ukraine. CUF’s mission is showing the American doctors how to interface with the Ukrainian medical military structure to have their own missions in the future.

How did CUF manage to establish such good relations with the Ukrainian side that other parties are using their connections now? “Боже провидіння (God’s providence),” said Victor, and provided some details: “The mission started in 2014. In April, 2014, we sent six doctors to Ukraine who toured all over the country and picked the best site to have these operations – the Kyiv Military Hospital. There are military hospitals in Odesa, in Dnipro and in Lviv, but we decided that the best facility was in Kyiv. The military medical structure – because they were treating all the wounded from the front – decided to take the chance. The Kyiv Hospital gave up three operating rooms for a whole week. And as a result of our fruitful cooperation, on the last mission, we left them over $700,000 worth of specialized Stryker medical equipment and two years’ worth of spare parts, which we bought through a federal government grant. We also trained them how to use that equipment. We wanted to upgrade the Hospital’s capacity and the only way we can do that is by leaving them the tools to do the job.”

This year, CUF’s medical mission to Ukraine is the biggest so far: 25 Canadian personnel and six Americans. Victor however noted, “I don’t see us as being able to send large missions continuously, we have to re-evaluate our strategy after we come back home. This kind of large mission is very expensive. We are lucky this time to have 25 cranio-facial surgeons, neuro-surgeons and nurses, both pre-op and post-op. We must scale the missions down. We would like to send teams of 5-6 people to hospitals in Lviv, Odesa, Kharkiv and Dnipro to share our expertise. The Americans are having a videographer on their team who will prepare teaching videos for the Ukrainian side and for the American side.”

CUF is having one more new initiative this year, said Victor Hetmanczuk: “The Ukrainian nurses have seen how our nurses are helping the doctors, and they too wanted to upgrade their skills. After one of the missions, we went to talk to the Registered Nurses of Ontario to see if we could transfer their best practices to Ukraine. There are about 46 best practices that we are using in Ontario to improve nurses skills after they got their degree. While in Ukraine, I will interview 3-4 sites that will take this best practices guidelines program and start training their nurses to upgrade their skills. We hope that this program will ultimately reach 400,000 nurses in Ukraine. We also hope that we will be able to help introduce Canadian standards on PTSD into the nursing curriculum in Ukraine. This way we hope to go from individual help to a significant cultural institutional change in the Ukrainian hospital system.

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