Ukrainian teenager with gunshot wounds drives 4 people to safety during Russian attack

When 15-year-old Liza Chernichenko pressed the accelerator while frantically driving through the Donetsk region, she realized she had been shot in both legs, but with four others in the car, including two men who were bleeding profusely, she continued to drive, even while the Russian troops kept firing

“There was no fear, there was no shock,” said Chernichenko, who spoke to CBC from her hospital bed in Lviv.

“There was just a determination to keep going.”

Chernichenko, who planned to sit with her godmother and try to face the relentless barrage at her community of Komyshuvakha, fled after two men were injured in an attack and needed someone to take them to hospital.

Her dramatic breakout on May 1 came as Russian forces stepped up their attack on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where they aim to capture a greater portion of Donetsk and Luhansk, along with gaining full control of Mariupol, where an unspecified number Ukrainian fighters are located in the steel factory of Azovstal.

On Saturday, Ukrainian officials confirmed that all women, children and the elderly had been evacuated from the sprawling Soviet-era steel factory, while other residents from besieged areas in eastern Ukraine are making harrowing journeys west from the immediate war zone.

A woman stands outside her home after a rocket attack hit a residential area in Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region on Saturday. (Jorge Silva / Reuters)

rescue mission

Chernichenko told CBC that after hearing the shooting, she cycled from her home to where two men were wounded with shrapnel.

In the commotion that followed, she decided the men should go to the hospital in Bakhmut, a community about an hour away. One of the wounded men had a car that could take them there, but given the fierce fighting in the area, no one wanted to drive.

So Chernichenko took over the wheel.

The two injured got into the car along with one of their wives and another man who offered to help navigate.

Driving to avoid mines

She says that as she drove out of the village they drove under a bridge and saw them sitting a few hundred yards in front of her mines like “chess pieces” that she had to drive through.

Further down the road, a pole split in two and next to one of the halves lay the body of a woman.

Chernichenko, who already knew how to drive, says she and her passengers suddenly came under fire from Russian troops when they turned a corner.

She was hit and so was the car. The engine stalled briefly before restarting.

With bleeding legs and pain radiating through her feet, she was relieved when 20 minutes into the journey, they encountered Ukrainian troops who took control and rushed everyone to the hospital.

Chernichenko had been hit by at least four bullets and her baby toe on her left foot had been blown off.

dr. Halyna Hachkevich, head of the trauma department at St. Nicholas Children’s Hospital in Lviv, says that in addition to treating children injured in the war, medical personnel are helping to cope with the trauma and uncertainty. Some children have lost a parent or family in the fighting and do not know where they will live after being discharged. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

As she tells the story from her hospital bed, she is confident and tells with confidence that she had no choice but to act.

At fifteen she projects the image of someone who has taken care of herself for years.

But when a doctor comes to tell her that her bandages need to be changed, she yells that she doesn’t want to go.

When she is taken to another room, her screams can be heard down the corridor of the hospital.

“It’s terrible,” said Dr. Halyna Hachkevich, head of the trauma department at St. Nicolas Children’s Hospital in Lviv.

“Seeing people’s grief.”

Chernichenko shares a room with a girl who was trying to flee Kramatorsk with her mother on April 8 when a rocket hit, killing at least 59 people.

The girl was injured in the blast, while her mother was killed.

Hachkevich says her team receives about 12 pediatric patients from the war zone every week. The youngest they’ve seen is only nine months old.

Foreign doctors from the United States and Italy have arrived in Lviv to help perform surgeries, but in frontline communities, doctors and people with no medical training struggle to provide care as their hospital buildings are attacked.

Hospital under siege

Before the war, Kostiantyn Sokolov, 35, worked at the Azovstal steel mill, where he helped manage the supply of equipment, but on February 24, when Russian troops invaded the country, he moved to a maternity hospital in Mariupol where his mother works. . like a doctor.

He spent almost two months there before he and his parents had to flee.

The hospital was attacked several times. Sokolov, who has no medical training, worked to get diesel for generators, carried people on stretchers and held up lights so doctors could perform surgery and give birth to babies.

When another maternity hospital in Mariupol was bombed on March 9, Sokolov said a wave of patients arrived in need of help.

He and his parents wanted to stay in Mariupol as long as possible, but were warned by Russian troops, who now control the port city, to leave.

“The tactical team said we had to evacuate or we would be executed,” he told CBC as he stood in a long line for petrol in Lviv, where he had arrived a week ago.

Kostiantyn Sokolov waits in a fuel lineup in Lviv on May 7. He fled Mariupol, where he stayed and helped run a maternity hospital since the invasion began. (Briar Stewart/CBC)

As they left Mariupol on April 19, their car came under fire.

“Thank God they don’t have such a well-aimed sniper,” he joked.

Filtration Camp

They passed through a series of Russian-controlled checkpoints and a so-called filter camp where his phone was searched and he was questioned as to whether he had any connections to the Ukrainian military or the country’s security forces.

He was there for about four hours, which he says is considerably less than most men his age because he was traveling with his mother, who was a doctor.

Once his parents settle in, he hopes to return to eastern Ukraine, where he says he will join the fray.

In the hospital in Lviv, Chernichenko does not know what awaits her.

Although she can walk on crutches for a short distance, it will be days if not weeks before she is released from the hospital and she knows it will be too unsafe to return to her village in Donetsk.

Her best option now, she says, is to contact a nurse she met on the train to Lviv, who gave Chernichenko a number and offered to take care of her when she gets out of the hospital.

“War is the worst that can happen in this life,” she said.

“It makes no sense to me to blame anyone. You can only blame one person and that is… [Russia’s] president.”

A crater left by a strike for maternity hospital #2 in Mariupol. Kostiantyn Sokolov told CBC he stayed in the hospital between February 24 and April 19, where he helped the medical team, including his mother, care for patients. (Submitted by Kostiantyn Sokolov)

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