Katia, a Ukrainian member of the St. Egidio Community, promises to keep helping people in Kyiv Katia, a Ukrainian member of the St. Egidio Community, promises to keep helping people in Kyiv 

Young nurse in Kyiv: 'It is my duty to stay and keep helping'

A Ukrainian medical student in her final year of studies describes why she and her family have decided to stay in Kyiv, as Russia continues to bomb the city and civilians living within it.

By Francesca Merlo

Nowadays, in Ukraine, the skills Katia has to offer are more important than ever. As a final year medical student in paediatric intensive care units, and with three years of experience in anaesthesiology, she feels it is her duty to stay in Kyiv, even as Russian bombs continue to fall around her. 

For others and each other

"Every hour can change" in Kyiv hospitals, as staff continue to take injured men, women and children in for treatment.

"That's the main reason I decided to stay," says Katia, speaking to Vatican News' Svitlana Dukhovych. Another reason is her work as a volunteer with the Youth for Peace movement of the Community of Sant'Egidio.

Even before the war broke out, Katia tells of how she helped the elderly of her city by delivering food and water to them.

"Now, many of these don’t want to leave Kyiv," she says, and although they are all brave, they are also all afraid. She explains that many live on the high floors of skyscrapers, and that with bomb sirens going off even ten times a day, they are not even able to make it down to the bomb shelters.

"They give me incredible support in my decision to stay," she says, adding "I'm here for them just as they are for me."

Katia is lucky because her family also show her support, so much so that they have also decided to stay in Kyiv, in order for them to stay together.

"The situation is getting worse," says Katia, and the main threats are the bombs and rockets which have already destroyed 70 civilian buildings including kindergartens and hospitals. "We are afraid but we feel protected, by our God and by our army," says Katia. 

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How things change

So much has changed since the start of the war, and amongst these is the definition of some, usually, very clear words.

"The word 'peace' has changed a lot for me," says Katia. She explains that "it is only once you've known war, that you start to understand peace."

But 'peace' is not the only word that has completely changed meaning for Katia. So has the word 'refugee'.

Katia talks about one of the most recent initiatives to be introduced with her work with the Youth for Peace movement, explaining that "this year we began inviting refugee children, mainly from Afghanistan, into our schools."

There they have been learning Ukrainian, and making friends with the local children.

"A few months before the war, we were already so frightened about it being a possibility," says Katia, describing "the tension in the air and the threat of war."

That's when the meaning of the word "refugee" began to change... because that's when you develop empathy for the refugees, says Katia: "when you understand that you could be one yourself."

Thank you

Finally, Katia expresses her gratitude for the "precious" international support being delivered.

"Since the first days of the war, my greatest fear was to be abandoned, and that we would be alone," but through both words and deeds, Katia says, "we know that we are not, and for that, thank you.. so much."

23 March 2022, 09:16