"Some come, while others wait, thinking that the war can be won without them" - Hospitaller "Cheka"
- Irina, at the start of the full-scale war, you clearly defined your role as a paramedic. During this time, how many rotations have you had, and overall, how would you describe the combat readiness of your unit given the absence of stable rotations?
In reality, "Hospitallers" is the largest volunteer medical battalion in Ukraine, and our work format includes rotations. We have a systematic rotation system that allows me to return to Kyiv, rest, and then return to work. Then go on rotation again. So, we are in much simpler conditions compared to those who have systematic rotations lasting for half a year or more - without knowing when they can leave the sector and have a little break from the tension due to combat operations.
- Can we describe your typical day on rotation for clarity? Are there any service details or stories that you can share?
We have two formats for our standard day. The first one is happening today: it's a calm day, and we are on standby. There are medics who have replaced us and are currently on duty at the positions. We wash, brush our teeth, take care of our clothing and equipment, clean everything from dirt, sand, and so on. And, essentially, we prepare for the next shift - that's our day. We live in a bunker and are on duty there all the time, listening to the radio station, waiting for orders to evacuate the wounded, and then we move to the combat positions, basically to the location where the injury occurred. We retrieve the wounded and provide assistance on the way. So, during our day while on duty, you never know what will happen. You can brew yourself some coffee and rush to evacuate a wounded person, or you can spend the whole day reading a book about the history of Ukraine and not have any wounded, which is great and what we always hope for.
- I must ask about exhaustion - something that is not commonly discussed. So, what is exhaustion like during the war? What global consequences does it hide, and how has it personally affected you?
I used to experience exhaustion, which had a clear correlation with the fact that there was no deadline for this war. It wasn't unclear when it would end, and how many rotations I would have to go through, how long I would have to forget about my civilian life. When you don't understand how much more you have to endure, the war becomes very exhausting. Now, there is also exhaustion from loneliness and the feeling that the responsibility for victory in this war lies on the military and paramedics, as a separate social group, while the rest of society is separate. This is an entirely wrong paradigm of thinking because the military is part of society. This is not a professional army that has been preparing all their life to defend their borders. These are mostly civilians who became soldiers.
What slightly scares me is the loneliness in this fight, where there are people who come, and there are those who wait, thinking that the war will be won without their participation. The lack of professionalism among civilians in a country experiencing a full-scale war is a loss for all of us. I feel exhausted, particularly from this loneliness.
- In one of your posts, you mentioned, "I am a volunteer, I don't receive a salary for my work or medals, social protection, and so on." From this perspective, what do volunteers who are essentially self-reliant leave with? What does it mean to "be a volunteer" in civilian life?
I am a volunteer. It's my conscious choice and responsibility. I don't shift this responsibility onto society because if I need certain provisions and social guarantees, then I should join the Armed Forces where society provides the apparatus with its taxes, and I can receive public goods. Instead, I want to be effective and can be much more effective as a volunteer. Our crew has a high-quality modified evacuation vehicle that operates on the front lines. There are no such vehicles like ours. Other people take an example from our vehicle and modify their own to make first-line evacuation more professional, high-quality and to allow the injured to be stabilized immediately.
The most important thing in this work is that we can close crises. I worked as a crisis manager in civilian life. Now, in the war, I'm doing something similar: we come to a unit where there are no medics at all, or rotations need to be changed, and in this unit, we close the crisis area where there is a lack of quality evacuation. It's not just a pickup truck taxi, it's genuinely high-quality evacuation. For me, this is a great satisfaction. On one hand, yes, I'm a volunteer, and it's exhausting. There's no financial support, no social guarantees, no medals, and so on. On the other hand, I've never seen any special meaning within our struggle, so closing crises and being useful on a voluntary basis is much more effective.
- Returning to civilian life, where the majority of people are far removed from the war, what do you feel? Do the prevailing attitudes in society affect your overall well-being?
I think that to avoid seeing the war with your own eyes, you have to be blind. However, to avoid understanding that your participation in the war is obligatory, you have to be infantile...
These people hide from their thoughts, and try to find excuses for why the war is not for them, why someone else should fight for them now. But it's clear that no one is born for war, no one here is a super warrior. No one knew everything they knew now. Skills are free from anxiety, and knowledge is free from fear. I don't want to call it "otherness," I don't want to believe that we have the right in these conditions to separate people who don't have the capacity for war as "others." These are people who infantilely demoralize the current situation by their non-participation in the war and by hiding from it. But you can't hide from it, it's already happening.
- In one of your posts, you aptly stated, "We are the generation of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine. We are people deprived of choice." But at the same time, we are the ones who can accelerate our better future. So, what is the main fact that today's society needs to realize to bring victory closer?
Only efforts lead to victory. You can't wait it out, chip in a little, or do something insignificant and believe that it brings victory closer. It doesn't. Only complex, strenuous, thorough efforts can lead to a successful outcome.
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