Lawyer-turned-doctor on a quest to save Ukrainian soldiers

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A high-flying Ukrainian lawyer has given up his lucrative job to set up a fleet of ambulances in war-ravaged Kyiv to provide medical aid and supplies to soldiers and civilians. 

Despite all the terror around him, Gennadiy finds joy by helping other Ukrainians with medical supplies.

Gennadiy Druzenko, 50, had a successful legal career when the Russian invasion started but has given it up to help his country’s resistance. 

And his activities have come to the attention of the Russian aggressors who are so riled they have added his name to a kill list. 

When the war started he managed to evacuate his whole family to safety in Western Ukraine but instead of staying there, the head of the family returned to Kyiv.

He said: “If you decide to fight you should be ready to be killed, so it was my conscious decision to return back to Kyiv with nothing as our home exploded.

Gennadiy’s wife Svitlana (right) is a nurse and helps out every day by providing medical aid as well as by managing the provisional supply units with other volunteers.

“I came to fight by taking weapons in my hands and to coordinate medics to help.”

Gennadiy isn’t the only family member to leave safety to help out in Kyiv: his wife, Svitlana, a nurse, and his eldest son, Max, 28, a doctor in an emergency hospital are also both back there working for the country’s good. 

Their 22-year-old daughter Taya has stayed behind in their safe house in the West of the country with the family dog Dave.

When saying goodbye to his children, he told them: “I can’t promise you anything, because this is war, but if we never see each other again, you don’t have to be ashamed of your parents because we died as patriots helping other Ukrainians.”

The family was only reunited 60 days after the start of the war in time for Orthodox Easter.

However, the happy family reunion was short-lived, as Gennadiy re-concentrated his organisation’s medical aid towards Eastern Ukraine this week.

He said: “We moved because we couldn’t feel safe and happy until our decisive victory over Putin’s Russia and the battlefield is now in Eastern Ukraine. If we don’t decisively win, the horror we’ve experienced in my native Kyiv will return. 

“I promised at the very beginning of this big war that I could only return home and to my peaceful business when we win.

Gennadiy celebrated his 50th birthday near the frontline, supplying soldiers and civilians with supplies in one of his mobile ambulance vehicles (pictured).

“Yesterday I celebrated my 50th birthday near the frontline and it was the best birthday in my life because of the brilliant people who fight shoulder-to-shoulder with me against Russian darkness.”

His daughter, Taya, is very proud of her family and deems their continuous work for their home country and its people patriotic: “I’m just so proud of them. I miss my parents, but I know that they are helping people and that is so much more important.”

The fleet of ambulances and cars under the name of Medbat started with just his family car and a few supplies, but now, due to many donations, he is able to help people in and around Kyiv with various needs, from medical aid to food and emergency supplies.

As a well-known activist in Kyiv, Gennadiy is on a Russian kill list supplied to Russian soldiers via a telegram called Troika (Тройка).

Troika is the Russian word for a group of (three) people working together and the platform is used to “scare the people the Russians want killed”, as Mr Druzenko explained.

He is a well-known public persona in Kyiv and is published on the list with the caption “we will come to your home and cut your balls off”.

In 2016, Gennadiy Druzenko was appointed advisor to the Health Minister in Ukraine.

He is not worried about being on Russia’s hit list and even joked that being on it means they recognise the good work he’s doing with his mobile medical support units: “I must be doing something right and finally get some recognition.

“They hope I’m afraid and panic, but we have great unity and solidarity and we Ukrainians are fighting on the right side of this war.” 

His life changed significantly from being a managing partner in a law firm, a “legal elephant”, as he referred to himself, and an advisor to government officials over the years.

Today, he is leading mobile medical units and meeting military commanders on the ground to find the best way to provide aid.

Mr Druzenko receives hundreds of calls every day from different people from the military, police, the territorial defence, government officials and civilians asking for advice or help. 

The father-of-two said: “My phone runs hot from the many calls I get, but I’m trying everyday to make the mobile ambulances more efficient because the more efficient they are, the more lives we can save.”

Mr Druzenko is currently trying to raise funds for armoured vehicles and body armour for his medics and emphasised how urgently those are needed: “Every day we endanger the lives of my wife and the volunteer medics in the mobile ambulances as they work under shelling. 

Being a veteran himself, Gennadiy attends many military briefings with other veterans to support the military.

“To prepare a doctor, you need about 10 years, but to lose him or her, you just need one second.”

Since the Russian invasion started on 24 February, Medbat has already helped thousands of soldiers and civilians.

However, the hardest moments for Mr Druzenko are when he cannot help people. 

He said: “Some people ask if we can help them escape from occupied territory, but we can’t help them because the Russians shoot ambulances and I can’t have my medics take those risks.

“The worst is when you can’t help and can’t save people’s lives. These are times which make you desperate, disappointed and exhausted and it doesn’t matter how hard you work, you’re dissatisfied because you lost people.”

Donations can be made on the Medbat website.

 

 

 

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