Littlehirosima: The Gorlovka Hospice

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Original written by Yevdokia “Dunya” Sheremetyeva on her littlehirosima blog; translated from Russian by J.Hawk and originally posted at South Front. September 23rd, 2015

 
I want to tell you about one individual.
The report ought to be not about him, but rather about a place where people are dying.
But it turned out the story is really about him.
Because the world is full of such simple people. Simple and needed.
We phoned the Gorlovka hospice from Moscow: –Nikolay
Nikolayevich, we heard your hospice is in a bad state, we’d like to
bring aid.
–Many, many thanks. We’ll happy to get anything at all.
–Give us a list of what’s necessary. Write as much as you can. We’ll try to do our best.
–I understand that we’ll get whatever is left over from other places, I’ll make a list right now.
–Nikolay Nikolayevich, we’ll be coming to you directly, and we’ll make purchases specifically for the hospice.

Nikolay Nikolayevich was speechless.
We didn’t understand why, at the time. There was still much we didn’t know at the time.
The trip to Gorlovka frightened everyone. But for some reason I was the exception.

I owed this hospice already, from earlier trips, even though the hospice and
Nikolay Nikolayevich didn’t know about it.  We never called anyone, but I
remembered about them ever since we were told they are in a really bad shape and
that they are not receiving much of anything – they are the lowest
priority. 
Nobody needs the dying. Nobody. Even their own kids.
We wanted to bring aid but the city was being mercilessly shelled.
But already then I decided – we will help. We’ll get through.
I was certain there wouldn’t be shelling. Both Zhenyas were looking at me with concern.

The trip from LPR to DPR was smooth enough.
Me having requests for aid from the hospice and wearing short shorts made sure of it.


 
We started to unload bottles, diapers, pails, supplies.
Only women were scrambling around. They summoned a physician from a neighboring department to help.
Nikolay Nikolayevich, the director, simply and earnestly walked up:
–We’ve been waiting. Everyone has been on pins and needles.
Nikolay Nikolayevich is round-faced, reminds me of Leonov, and wears a
white smock. He invited me to his cabinet. I overheard one of the
medical orderlies:

–Why are you carrying everything? We’ll still have to carry it back out.
I didn’t understand what she was talking about.

I ran up to the director and grabbed him.
–Nikolay Nikolayevich, show me the hospice.
–Of course. But nearly everyone there is bedridden, what more need I say? Ready?
–Let’s go.
–How many patients do you have?
–22, 18 of them bedridden.

We walk up to a room.
–That’s Anatoliy Babay. From Debaltsevo. His house was pounded to
rubble. Soldiers got him out of his cellar, he was wounded, spent time
in surgery. Then he was sent here. That’s how it was during the winter. I
can’t even express it. Our facility is right along the road to
Debaltsevo. Whole crowds came our way. This is where everyone was housed. The whole floor was full. People slept everywhere. When there
was no electricity we all cooked outside on open fires–the workers,
neighbors, everyone who was temporarily housed here. The administrative
office became a kindergarten, all the employees’ kids were here. We
couldn’t do much.

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I walked behind him and simply listened.
–In other words, we had something like 200 people in my department.
–But there’s no room here. Where?
–People slept right on top of one another. We slept here too.

Nikolay Nikolayevich smiles. A real physician, genuine sense of humor.
Black humor. He’s constantly trying to joke, to distract us. He’d often
say “just between us girls”, even though my towering Zhenyas left a
rather different impression.
–We were sleeping one night. I slept in my cabinet, the senior nurse
slept in the nurses’ room. And then suddenly, a  huge crash the middle of the
night, and I’m thinking it’s all over. A direct hit. I fall off the
couch and crawl toward the door. I open the door and I see the nurse
crawling out of the nurses’ room toward me. We met head to head in the
hallway, both of us on all fours. And we hear a voice down the
corridor–”oops, sorry, I dropped it.” An orderly dropped a bottle
with frozen water. The whole department had a big laugh. But at the time
I thought it was all over, the scumbags blasted us to bits.

We walk up to the next room.
–This woman was evacuated from Uglegorsk. No documents at all.


 
–When the water was turned off, we carried everything from the cellar–it
was flooded, and we used that water to wash the ill. We boiled it, then
used for washing. Many thanks to the neighbors who came, brought their
detergent and helped us do laundry. Otherwise we’d have drowned in
excrement.
–The basement was flooded? So what do you do when there’s shelling?
–Nothing. What are we to do? We cover the ill with mattresses, to
protect them from fragments. We ourselves lay down on the floor, under
mattresses. We didn’t suffer direct hits. Only right next to us. One
window was blown out. We still can’t get the higher-ups to install a new
one. At least they gave us plywood, and we covered it up using masking
tape. But what are we to do come winter?
– Waves his hand in frustration: “Who needs the dying?”


 
All the windows in the hospital are crossed with tape [to prevent flying shards]. Like everywhere else on the Donbass.
A marker of time and place.


 
And this is Lidiya Duvanskaya. Paralysed, terminal stage of cancer.
Understands everything. She was a distinguished teacher. She got cancer
only recently. Her colleagues sometimes visit her. But her daughter
dropped her off and hasn’t visited since then: “Call me when she dies.”
I’m trying to muster outrage.
–But that’s her mother!


 
The psychologist who stood right next to us only smiled.
–The majority of people in the hospice are in the same situation. The
kids dropped them off and disappeared. See that woman under the pink
blanket? That’s Gurzhiy. She had two heart attacks. Her son signed her
apartment over to himself, sold it, and vanished, leaving his mother
here.


 
–You see the granny on the green pillow? That’s Kurnosova. She’s hard of
hearing after the heart attack. Bedridden. But fully conscious. Her son
brought her “for a week” to recover, and split.

I already wrote about the bedridden elderly many times. And I got
responses to the effect “that’s how they raised them” more than once.
But that’s not right. Because sometimes there are two children, of which
one does everything for the parents and the other vanishes. And the
amount of attention and butt-wiping devoted to the kids doesn’t make a difference. Some
mothers did not raise their kids at all, but the kids are helping them.
There are mothers who completely abandoned their kids and led their own
lives, but their kids worship them. And sometimes it’s the other way
around. I’ve seen so many different cases that I can say one thing for
certain–there is no case in which one could say “they didn’t love
enough / paid too much attention.” It defies understanding. One could
conduct entire research projects about why and when kids spit on their
dying, powerless, or simply aging parents. Why they abandon them when
their parents washed their behinds and fed them when they themselves had
nothing to eat. The fact remains: there is a terrifying number of cases of
abandonment. All of us, in one way or another, betray our
parents.


 
Nikolay Nikolayevich is walking up and down the floor and knows
everyone. Every story. When we went back to his office, I once again
overheard concerned voices among the nurses. The director tried to steer
me away from all that, but was too late.
I hear from the nurses:
–They’ll take it all away.
I came in and asked what happened. They started to talk all at once
about how one of the hospital workers saw the diapers and told the chief
physician about them, and then it hit the fan. I don’t understand
anything.
–Nikolay Nikolayevich, what happened?
–The hospital will take nearly all of it away.
–But we brought it for the hospice, what’s the hospital got to do with it?
–It makes no difference. Everything goes on the hospital account, then
they distribute it among departments. We get almost nothing. We haven’t
gotten any medicine for two months.
–Wait, this has to be a mistake. What does the Chief Physician have to
do with it? We haven’t brought it for the hospital, only for you!
Then I hear the nurses:
–Girls, maybe we’ll at least hide the underwear and powders? Otherwise they’ll grab it all from us.
Zhenya and I are grabbing the diapers and start writing “For Hospice
Only” all over the packages. I know that nobody gives a damn – who cares
about the dying? Who cares how the rooms are washed for those who don’t have much
time left?
–It’s all the same to them. They’ll open the packages, the writing be damned.
There is a sound of bitterness in their voices. And I lost it.
–Take me to your Chief Physician. We’re gonna have a fight.
They hunched up.
Then Nikolay Nikolayevich looks at me:
–I won’t give them anything. We are staffed on 2002 standard for therapeutic departments, not hospices, where the majority are
bedridden. I have one nurse and two orderlies on each shift. For 22 patients. But that’s only enough people for 5 bedridden. I don’t know why
they listen to me and how. I don’t know why they still haven’t left this
place where they get almost no salary. Where there are no cleaning and
personal care supplies.
In the meantime the nurses are growling.
–What do you mean, you won’t give them anything. They’ll take
everything. We need to hide something before they see it. You should
have come to us at night.
Zhenya went to butt heads with the Chief Physician over the phone. That lady
spent 20 minutes telling him that officially it’s meant to go to the hospital, but they’ll give everything to the hospice. In the meantime the workers are saying that the hospice
won’t get a thing. Kafka is here and the nightmare begins.
A dried up old lady showed up after half an hour is the the hospital’s accountant.
–We’ll compile an act of receipt, together with a list of everything
that was delivered to the hospice. What organization are you from, what
should I write?
–Write my name – Sheremetyeva Yevdokia.
–It doesn’t sound reputable, it can’t be. What organization?
I’m trying to explain, but their eyes fog over.
–No, that can’t be.
So I tell them:
–Write “Horns and Hooves” [joke name from a movie].
The doctors and nurses burst out laughing.
The old lady doesn’t get it.
–So write my full name. I’m a private person, I’m not an organization
and I’m not a foundation. If you want me to make something up, write
“Horns and Hooves”. And yes, it’s only for the hospice.
I look down, and she writes down my name.
We fought for a long time. Zhenya was shouting, and I ran around writing on everything with a marker.
I go back to Nikolay Nikolayevich in shock. I know that he’ll get a big chewing-out.
–Nikolay Nikolayevich, what’s all that about?
–We’re used to it. Thanks for helping us keep the aid.
Nikolay Nikolayevich has already relaxed and treated us like his own. We were on the same side of the barricade.
We started talking about the war, Gorlovka, shelling. And when we said our goodbyes, he added:
–By the way, the war actually helped me. You know how? Several shells
hit my mom’s garden. And you know what? I threw out the fragments and
didn’t need to dig the hard soil [to plant potatoes] –it was all stirred up for me.

PS. If you want contribute to humanitarian assistance to the people of the Donbass, contact me in person through my livejournal account, through Facebook, or via email: [email protected] [Paypal donations can be made to the same [email protected] address]. Everything will be delivered and reported.

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