God bless Hamdi
Saturday, May 13, 2023 11:00 PM
On Sunday, Ukraine celebrates its second Mother’s Day since the start of the conflict in Ukraine. For many families, this day will be less of a celebration than a reminder of what the war has wrought: death, destruction, and the breaking up of families. For Ukrainian women who became mothers during the war, that’s all they know.
Olena Mukhonko, an obstetrician at a maternity hospital in Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine, has delivered up to 70 babies a month since the war began last year. As a doctor, she felt an obligation to stay in the city, despite the dangers she and her family faced. She says: “I had to go to work because I am a doctor who swore to help others in my work. What I love most is seeing a father who was crying and then witnessing his joy as he welcomed a child.”
After more than a week of conflict in Ukraine, the doctor helped four Ukrainian women deliver their babies, and in March this year helped celebrate the first of these babies’ birthdays. Olena says the mothers and their children represent the strength and resilience of Ukrainian women. “They are real heroes.”
As many as 195,000 babies were born in Ukraine last year, according to the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
The war in Ukraine
Nina gave birth to her daughter, Yulia, in the hospital corridor. You remember this was a relative luxury at the time. When missiles started raining down on the hospital, the women had to be taken down the bomb shelter in the basement. “It was sheer horror,” says Nina. “The children were crying, the women were giving birth.”
Another patient, Katrina, gave birth to her daughter, Sophia, in the basement that same night. “We spent the first hours of her life underground,” she recalls. Although she and her daughter were discharged the next morning, what awaited them outside the hospital was no different. Katrina says she hid in her sister’s basement with her newborn baby for three days without heat, light or water. “I had to find baby food somewhere, because I had no milk.”
As for “Marina”, who gave birth to her daughter “Diana” in the hospital corridor on the same night as Nina and Katrina, she says: “My biggest fear was the possibility of a bomb falling on us. Fortunately, the experience went smoothly.”
For Irina, who delivered her daughter, Amelia, by caesarean section in a cupboard turned into a makeshift operating theatre, “The war really left an indelible mark on my life. Just two days before I gave birth to Amelia, my husband, Serhi, was killed trying to Defending his city Amelia was my salvation without her, I don’t know how I would have lived it all; she just gave me the strength to live.”