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Doctor Describes Toll of Attack on Hospital in Southern Ukraine

“The Hospital Was My Home. Now It is in Ruins”

Ukrainian firefighters work at a damaged hospital maternity ward in Vilniansk, Zaporizka region, Ukraine, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. A Russian rocket struck the maternity wing of a hospital in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, killing a newborn boy and critically injuring a doctor. © 2022 Kateryna Klochko/AP Photo

On November 23, missiles hit the maternity ward of the Vilniansk district’s central hospital, in the Zaporizka region of southern Ukraine.

Along with nurses, administrative assistants, and other personnel, two doctors were on duty that night: 37-year-old emergency room resident Andriy Kozin and an intensive care unit doctor. Both were injured.

Andriy was in the maternity ward staff room when he heard the first missile hit at around 2 a.m. “The explosion was so loud that it shook the windows,” he told me.

Andriy was about to call and check on his family when a second missile hit. When the blast wave hit him, he immediately felt intense heat all over his body.

“I was buried under rubble. My arms, legs, my head were all pressed down, so I couldn’t move. The dust around my body was still hot, so I could feel my burns even more. If one can imagine hell, this was what it would feel like,” he said.

It took emergency workers almost two hours to extract Andriy from the ruins of what had been a two-story wing of the hospital buildings. He shouted as loud as he could to let rescuers know where he was.

Ukrainian authorities stated that Russian forces launched an S-300 type surface-to-air missile during this attack. While under the rubble, Andriy could smell the odor of fuel.

More than 50 patients were also in the hospital when the missiles struck. Mariia Kamianetska and her 2-day-old son, Serhii, were patients in the maternity ward. Media reported that rescue workers evacuated Mariia through the window but that the attack killed Serhii, making him one of the youngest casualties of this war.

Today, Andriy is still in the hospital. He sustained burns to 37 percent of his body, among other injuries. He said he wakes up every night at 2 a.m. and relives the attack.

In nearly 10 months of war, attacks have hit many other hospitals in Ukraine, including a maternity hospital in Mariupol in March. Since February 24, the World Health Organization reported more than 715 attacks on health care, killing and injuring more than 229 people.

Despite the risks of war, healthcare workers like Andriy are there for their patients. Attacks on healthcare institutions jeopardize vital, timely and quality services, endangering patients’ lives and health. All attacks on healthcare personnel, patients, and healthcare facilities should stop and their protected status should be respected.


12/20/2022: This dispatch has been redacted to reflect the correct date of the attack.

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