Surgeon Dmytro (Dante): "Once they brought a man. Three kamikaze drones fell and exploded near him"
Updated: Oct 25, 2022
Dmytro Androschuk from the medical battalion "Hospitaliers" is a deep person with an established ethical code and strong principles. In this interview, he shared his story.
- Dmytro, why did you choose the name Dante?
- The nickname went from the time I studied in Ternopil.
- Do you love Dante?
- I really like "Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri. And Goethe's "Faust" liked very much.
- Tell me, you have a few days in Kyiv now. Is it a vacation, planned rotation or business?
- Everything is connected. In fact, this is a planned rotation that takes place in our "Hospitaliers" every month. We usually go to rest, plus we work a little at the same time. Since "Hospitaliers" is a volunteer organization, you need money to live for, so at the same time, I try to see patients these days. I combine staying at home with medical assistance.
- And how do others handle these times, when they need money?
- Difficult. Some are forced to stop volunteering and such trips, since we are not some legalized battalion. Many simply mobilize. Out of despair, because you have to live for something, eat for something. Because, yes, I want to somehow help, save people. But you can live in the format of such a selfless good samaritan for two months, half a year, no more. That's the problem. Some, for example, work in this format: they worked in the frontline for a month - they go back to regular work for a month. Then repeat.
“ …life in the rear should continue as normal - then the economy will support the army.”
- You now see everything in the rear with military eyes. What conclusions do you draw from what you saw and heard? According to my observations, since 2014, the front-line soldiers who come to our peaceful capital are divided into those who grumble "civilians have completely lost the shores here, they are walking as if there is no war". Others say “we are fighting to give people the opportunity to live relatively peacefully. Which category do you belong to?
- I belong to those people who studied history and understand what the period of the Great Depression is, and why it came. I understand that the reason why our country has not burned down since 2014, and we have survived, is that martial law was not imposed; that the rear could work while people in the front were fighting. No matter how offensive and unfortunate it is for us, life in the rear should continue as normal - then the economy will support the army. And even if you look at the situation from the point of view of some kind of psychology - when I come here, I get out of uniform as much as possible, boots and so on. During the entire time of rotation, I never put on a military uniform. I'm just switching to another life.
“…enjoy yourself at least a little at this time, while you are here. Disconnect. I was here as an ordinary person. Don't be soldiers here, be civilians, because you deserve it.”
- I will go to a club, hang out with friends, and drink in a bar. I will live a different life thanks to those who remained on the front lines. That way I won't get hung up on it. I'll be able to reboot, maybe recover. Therefore, I can only give advice to those who say that there are so-and-so people in the rear: enjoy yourself at least a little at this time, while you are here. Disconnect. I was here as an ordinary person. Don't be soldiers here, be civilians, because you deserve it. Then you can adapt normally. And the rear must remain in peace. After all, when we have a normal anti-aircraft defense, the country will start working. All repair plants, factories, etc. will start working. This is a closed circle. If there is no football, relatively speaking, then there is no advertising, no totalizer programs. There are no programs - there are no IT specialists who will donate to the Armed Forces...
- Even with your liberal attitude, is there something in the rear that particularly annoys you?
- Inability to plan tomorrow.
- And there is no way to build this perfect balance?
- Yes. It is clear that you constantly think: "for the cause, for the cause." And it takes away time from you to communicate with friends and loved ones. Because all of it is compensation for something.
“… my duties are to monitor the quality of our doctors' provision of assistance to the wounded, to analyze difficult situations, to help in difficult moments, to consult doctors on various situations”
- Let's talk about your voluntary work at the front. Are you currently acting as a head of the medical service in the "Hospitaliers" battalion?
- If you can say so. In fact, my duties are to monitor the quality of our doctors' provision of assistance to the wounded, to analyze difficult situations, to help in difficult moments, to consult doctors on various situations; to give advice on vehicle configurations, equipment, and so on. Also, I try to help with medical planning. I have some experience in this, I can help.
- Where are you based now? Not giving an exact location, just a direction.
- Before the last rotation, my crew was actively working in the direction of Ugledar for 4 months. Now part of the crew has remained there to help, and the other part - doctors, together with the field headquarters - will move to another direction, where it is now more necessary.
“...there is a terrible lack of night vision devices. The lion's share of losses in "Hospitaliers" occurs due to these night trips”
- Are you satisfied with the medicine and equipment? What is missing?
- There is often a lack of drugs that are not available for regular purchases. Powerful ampoule painkillers, separate groups of scarce drugs that can be used by our doctors. Therefore, ordinary people cannot buy them, they cannot bring them from abroad either. And some farms are not registered in Ukraine. But nothing is impossible for Ukrainian volunteers.
And for the drivers of the battalion, there is a terrible lack of night vision devices. The lion's share of losses in "Hospitaliers" occurs due to these night trips in the ATO zone. When the lights are turned off completely, light masking mode; you can belatedly react to an oncoming tank or the same car. If there were night vision devices, all these losses could be avoided.
“Saving a life is not only putting on a tourniquet on the battlefield.”
- Another question. What about personnel? How many newcomers have problems with training or motivation?
- All people come with motivation. Many are ready to work, dig trenches - only to be accepted into the "Hospitaliers". The problem is that often we do not know the people who come to us. Even if a person has a desire - unfortunately, not all people are comfortable doing such work. Not all people are ready to be in the risk zone, to perceive what is happening without panic.
- And do you have many newcomers?
- Not so much. We still try to take those who already have some experience. But if there are inexperienced newcomer, we try to find them other uses, calmer directions. So that they work in slightly different conditions, where their reaction to the situation is not so critical. It happens, for example, that older people come and want to help. They have a problem with
physical training - they cannot take a backpack, take a wounded person and run 200 meters because of age. But at the same time, their brains, for example, work beautifully. Then we have to come up with some option where to apply them. Maybe, somewhere in the rear, work with stable wounded at the stage of transporting them to the hospital. Or something in that spirit. Saving a life is not only putting on a tourniquet on the battlefield.
“The biggest hole for the Armed Forces is the level of sanitary instrutors and combat medics”
- Since 2015, you have been the head of the 44th educational center. Also, you periodically traveled to the East, worked on the evacuation of the wounded. Now you perform certain functions of the head of the "Hospitaliers", and at the same time you work with the team as a medic in the East. In practice, you know the entire chain of military logistics - delivery, evacuation, and so on. What are the main gaps in it that you see and perhaps would like to change?
- This is a question I have been studying since 2015. I looked for these disadvantages, tried to somehow solve them. Even before February 24, I was a member of the expert group that tried to solve this problem. The biggest hole for the Armed Forces is the level of sanitary instrutors and combat medics.
- What do you mean?
- We have hospitals and excellent surgeons who are ready to operate. We have soldiers who know how to apply a tourniquet, how to pull away from the battlefield. they are starting to build - perhaps with the help of the "Hospitaliers"- a global role-1, role-2, role-3 format with stabilization points, where at long distances, it is possible to seriously wounded, on the way to the hospital to stabilize, get the help of an anesthesiologist, a surgeon - and then send further, when the wounded person will definitely be able to get there. Especially where we have a travel time from the front line to the hospital - 60 km, 50 km. On our dead roads it is clear that this is quite a long time. The seriously wounded simply won't make it. And these checkpoints have already appeared. Evacuation teams began to appear well. But the question of combat medics, marksman orderlies, company orderlies, batteries - these questions remain very important.
“....these rotations are very important for us, the opportunity to return to normal life, simply reboot and disconnect from it all in order to continue to perform our work effectively”
- What time do you return to "Hospitaliers" after the rotation?
- For me, a comfortable stay is a month and a half. Then, after a month and a half, I already notice those moments behind me that I would not like to notice in the conditions of an adequate stay in society.
- Insomnia, aggression, apathy, loss of motivation sometimes occurs after a month and a half, after a month with a penny. Therefore, these rotations are very important for us, the opportunity to return to normal life, simply reboot and disconnect from it all in order to continue to perform our work effectively
- You still work sometimes with the team as a medic in the East. How does this happen?
- I work as a crew leader and as a stabilization point surgeon. Severely unstable wounded people are brought to me, an anesthesiologist and I do everything we can to ensure that this wounded person reaches the hospital alive. Such multidisciplinary team work. I understand that according to my profile, I can be most useful at this stage. Because earlier I tried myself, when emotions were at play, the body wanted fire - then we took out the wounded from under shelling, and were more in the rear, the medical center, and just worked on medical evacuation. But at the stage of the stabilization point, I see that I can be more useful. Basically, our anesthesiologist said the same thing. Therefore, we are currently trying to work in this format to be most useful.
“...a wounded man was brought in. Three kamikaze drones fell and exploded near him. He was cut by shrapnel. It was very difficult.”
- Tell us about the most painful case from your practice in this war.
- We had a situation when a wounded man was brought in. Three kamikaze drones fell and exploded near him. He was cut by shrapnel. It was very difficult. The whole team fought for his life, using the best means and technologies. We stabilized him after all. We worked hard as a team of 5 people in all directions. Everyone did their own thing: anesthesiologists,, surgeons. We transferred him to the hospital in a relatively good (nased on the vital signs) condition. And the next day we found out that this wounded man, whom we dragged out for so long, died after all.
- Why did he die, did you find out?
- It is not always possible to get all the information. And, in principle, it is not within our competence to find out and question.
- And now, please, remember a happy incident from the same practice of yours.
- There was a case, it was still in the Gostomel direction, when a lot of wounded people were brought to us. 40, 50 per day. And one was very bad, with face gray like earth. We left him. Stabilized, dug in while waiting for the next car (because there was a large flow of wounded). While waiting for the next car to evacuate him. The boy then opens his eyes and says: Doc, give me my coat. - Why? - Give me a coat. I give it him. He tears off his patch from me, says: here, it's for you. - Why? - I have a feeling that you need it more. This is my talisman, now it must be with you. You saved me, let it save you now.. I remember this very well. Now this chevron is always with me.
“ you understand that there are no wounded - and that's great, more guys will stay alive”
- Dmytro, different types of troops in the war have their "main figures". For example, fighter pilots get stars for shooting down enemy planes, snipers get serifs, each has some numbers. And what are the most important numbers for you as a doctor?
- Hmm... these are probably very important numbers for me. When the fighting was raging in the vicinity of Kyiv, up to a third of the wounded who were evacuated along the route died on the way to the hospital. When we started working with the headquarters in Pushcha-Vodytsia, not a single one was killed. For me, this is a personal indicator. This is the moment where I can check myself "well done".
What other numbers can be given? I never count the wounded. Maybe with my experience as a doctor, I'm just losing empathy. I just have working days, and every day - numbers. Today 40, tomorrow 5, the day after tomorrow 1. And thank God that 1.
On the other hand, there is such a dissonance here. It's cool for a military man, when there No work, there are no wounded. As they say, the soldier sleeps, the service ends, the salary drips. And for "Hospitaliers" there is a very important moment of motivation. Its importance here and now, specifically for this task, this mission. Most of us understand that work, children, family and so on await us in the rear. What is at stake - should we stay here? What is quiet here? And if there are, for example, a lot of wounded people, and you understand that you are helping them, this is a completely different point of balance.
And here we have a very dissonant moment: on the one hand, you understand that there are no wounded - and that's great, more guys will stay alive. And on the other hand, if you look globally, it means that these wounded are somewhere else, so you are inefficiently using your resource, your time. That is why, we want to be at the hottest point at the moment when we can help people the most. We want to be in the thick of it - then we will really feel the motivation, the value of our work and understand that we are not making our contribution in vain. Because everyone brings something different to the altar. We carry our civil life that awaits us. Some companies and firms are destroyed while they are there for months at the front. Someone's job is lost. Someone's personal life is lost. We want to see the result of our work.
“when there are wounded, then you work, you understand that you are helping…”
Of course, we cannot guess everything and it is possible to stand the entire rotation without wounded, to go to Kyiv for 5 days, and in your group during these 5 days there are streams of wounded and dead. War is a very unpredictable thing.
- What is on your altar?
- A lot. If you analyze, a lot. This is personal life, and some recreation, and work, and family... My whole life. You try during that week, when you come to the rear, to somehow restore it, rebuild it, seal up these holes somewhere... But it's completely useless. When you come back from such a rotation - and you seem to have already recovered... until then again there are no wounded for two weeks - and you're like: damn it! And all kinds of stupid thoughts begin. You start to burden yourself: well, why am I here?!
And when there are wounded, then you work, you understand that you are helping... I remember one day I was very upset that we went home, and there were many wounded in our group at that time. Just then there was an assault... And in the week that we were in Kyiv, they had both wounded and dead. Then I was very hard on myself: damn, we sat for a month, there was almost no work; and we just went here - and that... and there is a lot of work there... so why did we go there at all... if I had been there, I would have been able to save someone else...
This is such a feeling of heightened guilt that I was not there at that moment and at that time.... For some reason, it shows up very strongly if we are not able to help somehow.
“for our country, for almost every family, for every soldier, this war has become personal.”
- Dmytro, will we win this war?
- I think so.
- Why will we win?
- Because we have no other option. We have no option to give up. Because for most of us, giving up means dying.
We understand that behind the Russians, if they leave, there is their country. They simply go to their country. And behind our backs there are our relatives and friends. We have nowhere to go. We have no choice but to surrender our positions. We are there so that they can somehow exist here, live; so that they can feel some kind of security.
The thing is that from theiг side, people are motivated by some orders, wages. We asked the prisoners how little they had left to serve. Most of them do not have any aggression towards Ukraine. For them, it's just a country they were told to come and take over...
And we are motivated by the desire to win. We are motivated by the fact that we have finally seen our enemy in the face. And too many of our close friends have died for us to just drop those deaths on them. It shouldn't end halfway.
Because for our country, for almost every family, for every soldier, this war has become personal. It's too personal to be angry just like that.