Although he left Lviv, Ukraine in 1992, Andrey Zinchuk’s heart remains with his hometown and country.
Since the start of the war, Zinchuk, MD, MHS, assistant professor of medicine (pulmonology, critical care, and sleep medicine); and director of the Advanced Apnea Management Program, has connected with fellow Ukrainians at Yale University and the Yale School of Medicine (YSM). Although he felt helpless at first, he was forced to support the war effort from nearly 5,000 miles away.
Irina Esterlis, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology; and Director, Molecular Imaging Program, NCPTSD, VA Connecticut Healthcare System; also reached out to Ukrainian colleagues. Born and raised in Kyiv, she was overwhelmed by what she saw on the news and heard from friends and family. Wanting to keep busy, she started baking traditional Ukrainian poppy seed breads to encourage donations, which went to meet the needs in Ukraine.
” I love to cook. And I could hit the dough and vent my anger. And I can’t cry when I’m cooking for someone else because it has to be sterile,” Esterlis explained. “Over $30,000 was raised this way.”
Zinchuk was introduced to Esterlis through a colleague. The duo then connected with Alla Vash-Margita, MD, FACOG, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences; and chief of the Division of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, whom Zinchuk had met during a grant-writing course a few years ago. Vash-Margita was born in Ukraine and received her medical degree from the medical faculty of Uzhgorod State University. She is active in many global humanitarian organizations, including the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee and Yale’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Education Program, which provided psychological counseling to victims of the 2014 Ukrainian Revolution and worked with the revived soldiers of Ukraine as a liaison in arranging transfer and medical aid to seriously injured soldiers in the United States.
Zinchuk, Esterlis, and Vash-Margita, along with several other Yale Ukrainian professors, pondered how they could help their homeland, and United for Ukraine, Inc. was born. They worked for engage Yale and the local community. They feverishly connected with friends, family members and former colleagues at hospitals across Ukraine for more information. Zinchuk contacted an anesthetist at the Military Medical Clinical Center of Western Lviv Region, Ukraine, to determine their immediate needs.
“At that time, they were accepting seriously injured soldiers in the field from the kyiv region. They had patients who needed continuous dialysis but could not find the supplies necessary to provide care. So I called a group of people in Poland and found a company that could supply them.With donations from friends and family, we bought $12,000 worth of supplies and had them delivered to the hospital from Lviv,” Zinchuk explained.
United for Ukraine has been creative in supplying hospitals in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv and Dnipro. They contacted local organizations, such as St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church in New Haven, for guidance. After trying several different routes to send materials, they determined that it was quicker to purchase supplies from Poland or Ukraine and hire someone to deliver the materials to Ukrainian doctors.
“Our help is specific and timely. We rely on doctor-to-doctor communication with intensive care doctors in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa and in military hospitals in Dnipro. We source from companies in Ukraine or Poland to avoid shipping delays,” Zinchuk explained.
United for Ukraine raised over $200,000 and allocated $172,000 to deliver supplies. However, the need for medical supplies continues to grow. More ultrasounds, chest tubes, ventilators, vests and other items are needed, Zinchuk said. With greater needs, more members of the Yale School of Medicine joined United for Ukraine, including Taras Lysyy, MD, research associate in surgery (transplantation); Maksym Minasyan, MD, postdoctoral associate; Katherine Kosiv, MD, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics (cardiology); and director of education in fetal cardiology, pediatrics and Myla Tsapar, program coordinator at Yale New Haven Health.
Department of Internal Medicine colleague and Ukrainian researcher Rick Altice, MD, professor of medicine (infectious diseases) and epidemiology (microbial diseases) put the group in touch with Iryna Pykalo, director of the European Institute for public health, to help develop the logistics and delivery network in Ukraine.
“That’s the beauty of everyone working together,” Zinchuk said.
“The goal is constantly evolving,” Esterlis said. “But the overall mission is to support the Ukrainian people. If we were there, we would have sent our families away and stayed to help. But since we can’t do that, we’re doing everything we can here.
While the organization was able to get supplies into the hands of doctors who needed them, Esterlis and Vash-Margita are concerned about the psychological and physical injuries of women and children in the country. Yet Vash-Margita is inspired by her compatriots. “You know what hit me? And it continues to amaze me. People who are refugees, they bring their pets. They carry their pets, they just want to save them,” Vash-Margita said.
The trio found comfort in sharing their stories and taking action. “Fortunately for my sanity, I met Alla and Andrey. Because they saved me,” Esterlis said.
To learn more about United For Ukraine, contact Zinchuk, Esterlis or Vash-Margita by email or visit their Dwight Hall at Yale’s website.
For more on Yale’s response to the Ukraine invasion, visit the Yale and the World website.