Leading Ukrainian children hospital, Okhmatdyt, suffered an attack. Workers and victims talk about its consequences. A photo report

Oleksandr Myasishchev
Glib Gusiev
Leading Ukrainian children hospital, Okhmatdyt, suffered an attack. Workers and victims talk about its consequences. A photo report

Children on the basement floor of the "Okhmatdyt" hospital.

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»

Today, at around 11 in the morning, Russia hit the Okhmatdyt Childrenʼs Hospital in Kyiv with an Kh-101 cruise missile. It almost completely destroyed the dialysis building and damaged the so-called "new facility", where most of the surgical departments worked. It also killed two adults, including a doctor and a pediatric nephrologist. Babel correspondent Oleksandr Myasyshchev arrived at Okhmatdyt an hour after the attack. He spoke with witnesses: medical workers, parents, the head of the radiology department Stanislav Riebienkov, and tells how the hospital survived the bombing. Photographs by Serhiy Melnychenko.

A large column of smoke coming from the new building of Okhmatdyt can be seen several kilometers away. There is a strong smell of smoke in the air near the hospital itself, and the sirens of several ambulances can be heard at once. A yellow-green ambulance and a white ambulance drive up to the hospital department. As soon as the car stops, two doctors run out. They put on gloves on the go and run to the place of impact. Underfoot there are broken glass, documents, plane tickets, boxes with medicines scattered everywhere.

Hit on Okhmatdyt. Civilian, military and rescue workers are sorting through the debris.

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»

Small children sit on benches and beds under the walls of the hospital. Many of them are on wheelchairs or connected to special medical devices. Many are distinguished by bald heads. A doctor in a red suit stands next to them. Blood flows from his temple, volunteers give him water.

Here the medical workers are discussing the consequences of the blow. They say: the missile fell on the department of toxicology, where children, in particular, seriously ill ones, were treated. One says: when anxiety began, she wanted to call her children and ask how they were. However, there is a bad connection in the hospital, so she left the ward. It saved her from the wreckage. "I hid behind a corner on the street," she says. “The wave knocked out the doors, windows, and ceiling. There is blood on the floor, itʼs dark and full of smoke. Parents were crying, children were screaming a lot."

Rescuers under the walls of the destroyed department of the hospital.

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»

Dozens, if not hundreds, of military personnel, rescuers, policemen, medics, and civilians are near the site of the impact. They lined up in several chains, dismantled the rubble and passed broken bricks along the chain. People in medical masks pull out parts of the building, pipes, and fittings from the impact site. On the second floor, one of the men breaks the rubble with a big hammer.

A blond woman in a white coat walks through the crowd under the hospital. She is carrying a large box in her hands. "Take, distribute masks!" she tells me. Mechanically, I pick up her box and hand out masks to the men. It is difficult to breathe dust. It made one of the men who was clearing the debris sick. He moves to the side and is doused with water, the doctors give him a bandage soaked in ammonia.

Doctors in Okhmatdyt.

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»

Roman Tkachuk, head of the Department of Municipal Security of the Kyiv City State Administration, stands nearby in the crowd. He is immersed in the phone. "Bring the excavator here! Central entrance, stop by, Iʼm waiting for you like manna from heaven!" Tkachuk says loudly on the phone. Already in 10 minutes, the first excavator approaches the hospital building, followed by another and a truck. It is loaded with construction waste.

At 12:58 a siren sounds again outside the hospital. However, only some people go to shelter in the hospital. "Please, letʼs go down to the shelter! Should everyone be led away by the hand?!" one soldier shouts. In a few seconds, there is an explosion. Not here. "Everyone put on bulletproof vests and helmets!" shouts one of the rescuers on the street. In just 15 minutes, the anxiety ends. During this time, all civilians were removed from the site of the attack.

The floor of a damaged hospital.

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»

Upon entering the radiology department, I meet doctor Nadia. At the time of the impact, she was scanning a small child on a computer tomography. As soon as she heard the explosion, she took the frightened child out of the apparatus and hid it in the corridor. She takes us to the basement floor to the head of the radiology department, Stanislav Rybenkov. Stanislav was in his office at the time of the attack. The ceiling in the study fell from the explosion and overturned the furniture.

Babelʼs correspondent talks with the head of the radiology department, Stanislav Rybenkov, in his office.

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»

"Everyone considers our department a safe haven," says Rybenkov. “When the explosion rang out, I was in the office, and next to me was a small child under anesthesia, about a year old, undergoing an MRI. Employees of our department have minor injuries, mostly from glass. Some were stitched up, but there were no serious injuries. But in other departments there are difficult cases, in particular children."

A wounded person in the Okhmatdyt operating room.

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»

For the first hour and a half after the blow, Rybenkov ran around his corps and checked whether all his men were alive. Some of the doctors then went to the emergency department and started helping the wounded. The other part joined in the analysis of rubble. His doctors also took x-rays of the injured — this equipment was powered by batteries. Many computers and other equipment of the hospital were damaged by the explosion. The offices began to be flooded with water. Doctors spent long hours saving the expensive surviving equipment.

Damaged office in Okhmatdyt.

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»

While we are talking, patients are being brought down to Rebenkovʼs secure ward. Dozens of parents and children were still sitting there four hours after the impact. Volunteers and doctors brought them food, water and sweets. Under the wall, I notice a couple trying to soothe a baby. The father sits down next to his daughter and shows her cartoons on the phone, shines a flashlight so that it becomes brighter around. Mother caresses and soothes her daughter. The young motherʼs name is Yelyzaveta. Her daughter was treated in Okhmatdyt on the seventh floor. The child recently had a tumor removed and is recovering after the operation.

Yelyzaveta and her little daughter.

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»

"The impact was very strong. We werenʼt hit, but the glass and debris were not far away. We immediately moved away from the windows and the medics took us downstairs," says Yelyzaveta. She carried the baby in her arms and tried to pull the heavy apparatus connected to her. It was not possible to go down. Her husband quickly came to the hospital and helped take the device downstairs.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

Donate to support the restoration of the Okhmatdyt hospital here.

Doctor Nadiya leaves the department of "Okhmatdyt".

Serhij Melnychenko / «Бабель»