Ukraine: Attacks on Medical Targets

By Ladislav Vrtiš, Czechia, 3 October 2023


By Mary C. Vrtis, U.S.A.

October 3, 2023

I am very proud to introduce my Czech cousin and friend, Ladislav Vrtiš. Since shortly after the Russians started the war against Ukraine, Lada has been using his personal vehicle to help evacuate people, mostly women and children, to safe locations in Europe. In another situation, he and friends brought in buses and not only evacuated a large number of people, but they also helped the refugees to find jobs and a place to live. In another instance, Lada and his friends delivered 25 ambulances to CaseVac, voluntary emergency medical teams in Ukraine. When they are ready, Lada has also taken these families back home.

Medical Personnel and Hospitals are Deliberately Targeted

By Ladislav Vrtiš, Czechia, 3 October 2023

DISCLAIMER: Most of what I did was based around bringing material to Ukraine, bringing refugees to Czechia and, most of all, helping them start a new life. Each of the trips took 4 to 5 days, and I was mostly the driver.

These photos are from June 2022. They show the destruction of the towns around Kyiv (Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka). It’s just about 800 miles from Prague.

I only ever visited 1 hospital in Ukraine, so a lot of what follows are accounts of people I spent time with who volunteered in different areas.

Medical personnel and hospitals are being targeted by the Russians on purpose. That’s a fact. When the war started, you’d see cars with a red cross painted on their roofs. It didn’t take long till everybody realized it was very dangerous to do so. Now all the crosses have been removed. It reminds me of a scene in the Letters from Iwo Jima movie where the commander explains why medics should be targeted.

In this war very few people actually get shot. It’s all about splash damage from artillery high explosive shells. As most soldiers carry multiple tourniquets, few soldiers die on the spot. It’s up to the medics and later doctors to save them.

A lot of the injured Ukrainian soldiers heal their wounds and return to battle a few weeks or months later with some experience under their belt. Killing the doctors will kill those soldiers.

I once spoke to an Azov soldier who survived the Azovstal siege leaving most of his left leg behind. He was determined to get back into the fight. His town was still occupied, and he didn’t like that one bit. “I still have my right leg intact so I can give it another go, can’t I?”

Most of the soldiers get wounded on the front line. They call it “line zero,” or “line of contact”. The CaseVac teams go just meters from that line in SUVs or lightly armored vehicles, load the wounded and move them to a temporary medical point (about 20 miles from the front line). The wounded are stabilized and prepared for transport to hospitals.

These field hospitals get targeted so often they have to move locations almost daily. The CaseVacs even more so. I personally know 4 people who died while driving CaseVacs. Two of them were Czech.

Most of the CaseVac crew members are nurses and students of medicine. These are 20-year-old women driving trucks on muddy trails.

When a CaseVac vehicle gets stuck in the mud, the crew members have to run 100 yards from the car and lie in a ditch for 15 minutes or so. If the CaseVac vehicle has been followed by a drone, artillery fire destroys the car in a matter of minutes. There’s nothing the CaseVac crew can do for the wounded who are inside the car. If the crew survives, they collect money for another car and keep on going. There are hundreds of CaseVac nurses and medical students.

I am aware regular hospitals and similar institutions get hit as well. It’s hard to say whether it’s intentional. Russian weapons are not known for their precision and a lot of the rockets get shot down over cities and the wreckage falls on houses causing damage. Many public buildings (such as schools) are used for military purposes and it’s hard to judge what the real target was.

Nurses in Ukraine

A nurse in Eastern Ukraine earns about USD $2,280 per year.[1]

The war, of course, started an inflation that made the prices of food, drugs, fuel, and electricity quite comparable to the US prices. While education and healthcare is mostly free, pensions are around USD 1,000 / year so every grown person has to support his/her parents. Should the nurse’s husband be fighting she would often support him as well.

A lot of them thus went to Western Europe where they do whatever they can to keep their families alive.

[1] RN salaries in the U.S. range from $77,190 to $97,200 depending on specialty. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2022, May). Occupational employment and wages, May 2022 29-1141 Registered Nurses.

Never forget that all of that comes on top of the “regular” problems we all have (health, relationship, kids…

Donation of Ambulances September 2022

Volunteer activists from Czechia delivered 25 donated ambulances to Ukraine, September 2022 – The vehicles are at the checkpoint.

Ladislav Vrtiš of Czechia with one of the ambulances delivered to Ukraine, September 2022