A few days before Yom Kippur, United Hatzalah Chief of Operations in Ukraine, Naftali Rabinovitch, received an urgent phone call from a woman who claimed her grandmother, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, needed urgent medical attention and transportation out of Lyman, the city in which she resides.
The city of Lyman is located in the province of Donetsk and has been a flashpoint in the war between Ukraine and Russia. The province was seized by Russian-backed militants in 2014 and was recently under heavy fire as Ukraine and Russia fought for control. Despite taking major losses in the conflict, Russia has stated that they recently annexed the region of Donbas, which consists of the provinces Donetsk and Luhansk.
Over the weekend, Lyman was retaken by Ukrainian forces which made it possible for a Ukrainian ambulance to take someone out of the city. Rabinovitch decided to take action, not knowing how long the city would stay in the hands of Ukraine. He immediately dispatched a pair of ambulance drivers, named Alexander Valerovitz and Vadim Aniboritzog, who work with United Hatzalah in Ukraine. The pair traveled more than 2,500 kilometers in a mission that saved the grandmother’s life and returned her safely to the western city of Uzhgorod, where her only other family in Ukraine currently lives.
What was planned for the rescue?
“Uzhgorod is probably the furthest city away from Donetsk and thus, one of the safest in the country currently,” Rabinovitch explained after the mission was successful. “We wanted this woman to feel safe. Additionally, she requested to be taken there because that is where her family is located. We brought her to a medical facility in order to receive care and it was there that she was reunited with her family.”
Valerovitz and Aniboritzog left on Sunday morning and traveled through the country and into Donetsk, coming under fire often. When they arrived in Lyman, they found the grandmother who had been injured from her house being hit by a rocket. Although she has a long list of previous medical conditions, the woman was concerned currently by her hand which she was unable to use due to the attack on her now severely damaged home. She was still awaiting treatment because there are no hospitals open in Lyman or the surrounding area.
After providing initial treatment, the pair evacuated the woman and brought her to the western city of Uzhgorod. They arrived safely on Tuesday morning, when the woman was brought to a hospital to receive further treatment and reunited with her family.
“I am very proud of the United Hatzalah team here in Ukraine for pulling this off and I want to thank both Alexander and Vadim for their heroism and their dedication to saving lives.”Naftali Rabinovitch
“Alexander and Vadim risked their lives to save this woman. They came under fire both while traveling to Lyman and upon making the return trip. I was monitoring every step of the way and there were some very scary moments for the team. It was a risk, but to save the life of a woman who has already suffered so much, and who lived in an area where no other help was able to reach her, we all felt that it was our duty to undertake this mission,” said Rabinovitch. “I am very proud of the United Hatzalah team here in Ukraine for pulling this off and I want to thank both Alexander and Vadim for their heroism and their dedication to saving lives.”