She Was the City's Only Doctor. Russians Put a Bag Over Her Head

Inside the horrors that befell Olena and her family in Hostomel
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2022 1:50 PM CDT
Updated May 28, 2022 7:00 AM CDT
She Was the City's Only Doctor. Russians Put a Bag Over Her Head
The gutted remains of the Antonov An-225, the world's biggest cargo aircraft, and Russian military vehicles destroyed during recent fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces, at the Antonov airport in Hostomel, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, May 5, 2022.   (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

You likely know Ukraine's Bucha and Irpin and the horrors that have taken place there. Add Hostomel to that list. The small city north of Kyiv completes the "trio of satellites" that Danny Gold writes for Vanity Fair will "go down in history with the likes of Srebrenica and Babi Yar." He backs up that claim through the story of one woman and her family. Olena, 57, had moved to Hostomel five years prior. She worked as a doctor; her husband, Oleh, was a retired police officer; their 22-year-old son, Dima, lived nearby. "For you to understand, we lived a perfect life here in Ukraine," she tells Gold. From Feb. 24 to March 20, she operated as the only doctor in the city, treating people in her home. "Olena was taking out shrapnel, bullets, whatever she could, and stitching people up, eventually with just regular sewing thread," Gold writes. Then, on March 20, she heard the screams.

Her husband had been shot in the hip and knee in their yard by Russian soldiers who accused him of being a traitor. The three of them were taken to the local airport and interrogated. Olena describes having a bag placed over her head and taped around her neck. She was finally released after they brought in a doctor and she correctly answered his questions about various medications. Oleh and Dima were taken to Belarus, and then separated. Oleh was moved to a prison in Kursk, Russia, and held for four weeks. "Prisoners were treated awfully," Gold writes, with one dying from the beatings. "Oleh’s bullet wounds soon grew infected, his leg ballooning to three times its normal size ... [he] took to urinating on his wounds in the hopes of sterilizing them." He was released, but Dima—who was already suffering from PTSD when he was taken—remains missing. (Read the full story.)

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