‘No sanctity to anything’: Vancouver doctor returns from treating patients in war-torn Ukraine

Dr. Piotr Michalowski returned home to Vancouver recently after facing trauma and tragedy on a daily basis while treating some of the the countless people harmed by the war in Ukraine.

“From shrapnel in the head to shrapnel through the liver and abdomen, another patient lost his spleen due to shrapnel injury,” said Michalowski, recalling just some of the severe injuries he treated during his six week volunteering stint through Doctors Without Borders.

Michalowski was stationed at various hospitals in central and eastern Ukraine, approximately 30 to 40 kilometres away from active conflict zones. He tells CTV News that patients would come in waves, seeing as many as 16 injured civilians in just a few hours.

“Very sadly, this is a war that’s fought with the new approach that there’s no sanctity to anything.”

The W.H.O estimates nearly 300 Ukrainian hospitals have been attacked since the conflict began in March. Despite the heightened risk, the eastern-European born doctor says he felt it was his personal duty to volunteer.

“This was a very striking example of a completely unjust war,” said the Polish-born, Russian-speaking doctor. “I really wanted to get involved and help in any way, shape that I could.”

Michalowski says he worked in many roles including supplying materials and helping manage patient flow. He also developed personal connections with many of those he treated.

“Depressive, sense of instability and unknown tomorrow,” said Michalowski, describing the state of mind in many of his patients.

Based on his experience, Michalowski admits it’s difficult to see an end in sight.

“I am expecting that this will last quite a while and will unfortunately translate to many more casualties,” said Michalowski, who’s volunteered with Doctors Without Borders since 2003.

Despite the uncertain situation in the region, Michalowski is planning to return to his post.

“I wouldn’t hesitate.”

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