"And the surgeons don't sleep, and we take them out..." - monologue of an "Austrian" girl
Updated: Oct 25, 2022
On June 28, a bus of the "Hospitaliers" medical battalion crashed into a military truck parked by the roadside. According to Kombat Yana Zinkevich, the truck had no lights on. The bus driver and all the medics were injured, and 46-year-old Nataliya Frauscher - the "Austrian" - died.
Natalya came as a volunteer from Austria. Her daughter and husband Fredi remained in Innsbruck. Fredi also wanted to go to the front but Natalya had been persuading him not to.
Three days before her death, she gave an interview. Natalya told how she decided to join the Hospitallers, what the war is like, and how difficult it is when a wounded person dies while holding your hand.
Here is her story.
I live in Austria, but when the war started, I was here. People around said: "Stop it, what invasion you’re talking about?". But I just knew. Actually, I came to Kyiv because I felt that everything might start any minute. I have a close friend, he is a surgeon in Tyshkivka, in a hospital. They were shelled since February 14, and he told me: "Natasha, this is a matter of a few days."
I woke up to the sound of airplanes. I woke up, of course, determined to stay and go. My husband said, "Please come home". My husband is Austrian, and we have a clinic where I am a maxillofacial surgeon. My husband is a quite cautious person. I wanted to stay and help, but I had to return to Austria. I came back, sat for a while, and started thinking of ways how to return to Ukraine.
In Austria, I was a volunteer — I sent trucks every month, and then every week, with medicine, with everything. One day, I said to my husband that I’d take one of these trucks for a ride to Ukraine. I said I was only going to visit my parents. However, I already knew that I was a part of the "Hospitalier" and that I’d be rotated as soon as I arrive. When he found out, he really asked to return to Austria, but I decided to stay in Ukraine.
It's calm here, it's a great base, a great team, it's perfect here. Our combatant is an angel. My crew is great. Our driver is an experienced, former truck driver, ready to go if necessary. The head of the crew is a well-known personality, Yuzik, chief medical officer of the Mechnikov hospital, and two young guys for whom it’s the first experience. One is a young doctor who just finished an internship, and the other is still a student at a pedagogical institute. I am more resistant to stress than the younger boys, maybe because of age. In some acute situations - they start screaming. In a peaceful life, I would have already shouted back, but here...
Well, here we go. Our task is to evacuate the wounded. The more we take out, the easier it is for the hospital to work, and the more it will be able to accept new patients. There are four beds in total in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Imagine, that four operating rooms are already busy. And we took them away - one of the guys already has a chance to be saved. That's why we don't rest at all. Only sometimes do I allow myself a few hours of sleep.
Kraken is a bus with six lying beds, all with monitors, three ventilators, oxygen, oxygen dilution, oxygen concentrators, and defibrillators. And it has five seats — meaning we can evacuate eleven patients at once. Or, as we brought twenty-three people – there were lying and standing passengers with light injuries.
We are seconded to the hospital in Tyshkivka. Lysychansk’s hospital is no longer there, the Bakhmutsky hospital is practically gone, only a few surgeons remained there, the hospital moved to Tyshkivka, and I think that this is not the end. Our bus is quite large, such a sweet target. We could drive from Bakhmut now, but we would come under fire with a whole bus, you know...
War, of course, is very different now. Very motivated guys, soldiers. A person without a foot is jumping up and down, wants everything to heal as soon as possible, to get a prosthesis, and return to the front line. Story upon a story.
I am a very empathetic person. Although I am a doctor, I had a lot to get used to. But in any case, when a patient is brought to you at the age of your daughter, and he dies, and you can't do anything, it is, of course, hard. I don't know how the doctors in the hospitals endure all this.
Of course, the heroes are surgeons in the hospital. I have not slept for two nights and I’m dizzy. Surgeons on the other hand just don't sleep. There is one vascular surgeon. They are rare even among civilian doctors. It is believed that if a leg or an arm is on a tourniquet for 2-3 hours, that's all, amputation. He can save arms after seven o'clock on the turnstile! Scrupulously sutures all vessels. Because he understands what disability is.
In the hospital, there is such a beautiful, touching attitude towards each other: "Go to sleep, I will operate, no, you go to sleep, I will operate." All the time they talk about operations, about patients: "And that one, do you remember that one?". You worry about everyone while you go to see them, you write to the doctors: "How is he? How is he?".
Wounded and local
We evacuate both military people and civilians with various injuries. Once we evacuated a young man, twenty years old, with a serious injury to the spinal cord. There were fragments in the vertebra. On the way, there were a number of worsening indicators, to be honest, I thought I wouldn't make it. He is an orphan and apparently wants to belong to someone. I talk to him and he tells me: "I have a fiancée." Gives the phone. "I have a fiancée, she is a little older than me, but I will live, it will be over, I will marry." And I call to talk to her - it turns out that she is just a girl, a young woman who works as a cook somewhere there. I say: "Do you know such a guy?". She says: "I don't know the last name, but the name is familiar."I described - "Yes, he ate in our dining room several times." She is not a fiancée, they just talked a little, but he has already painted this picture for himself and lives by it. He has someone to cling to for his life.
I am saddened that we left the wounded in the cauldron. Those who had light injuries, who could walk, went through the forest at night. And the badly-injured guys — they all stayed, all of them. I am saddened that the hospital is partially destroyed. We just left, and it was shelled.
It was an excerpt from the monologue of a girl who, in the ranks of the Hospitallers, saved the lives of Ukrainians at the front. There are no good words to describe all the bitterness and pain of the loss of an "Austrian" girl.
Hospital workers risk their lives every day, every minute to help civilians and the military. They stay awake at night and try to evacuate as many people as possible from hot spots. They do everything to save every life.