In a Ukraine maternity ward, newborn Katya brings hope amidst the horror

In a Ukraine maternity ward, newborn Katya brings hope amidst the horror
A nurse tells the doctor that Kravchuk is almost giving birth to the baby at the Maternity hospital after a bomb hit a building in the psychiatric hospital, only a few buildings down from the maternity hospital as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, March 22, 2022. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

March 23, 2022

By Natalie Thomas

MYKOLAIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Just minutes old, baby Katya lies on her mother Tamara Kravchuk’s chest, unaware of the joy and solace she has brought.

It is a moment of bliss and gratitude, despite the war raging close by.

“I’m so happy. No matter what happens now – I’m the happiest person… my daughter is healthy. God willing there will be peace,” said 37-year-old Kravchuk, lying in a hospital bed in the Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv.

Staring at her new daughter’s face and tiny hands, she talks of the future. The desperation and anxiety that dominated her thoughts before Katya’s birth are gone – for now.

“I think the war will end and we will live as it was before, our life will be calm again,” said Kravchuk. “I hope our children won’t see all these crazy things and everything will be good.”

The head of the maternity ward, Valentin Podaranchuk, is all smiles after delivering Katya.

“A new life is born, despite all the horrors happening around,” said the 39-year-old. “That’s why we still have hope. Today a new little girl came to our world.”

Russian troops tried to enter the Black Sea port city of Mykolaiv on March 4 but met fierce resistance. The city has been subject to intermittent shelling, coming ever closer to the hospital.

Almost a month ago, Russia sent troops over the border on what it calls a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its neighbour’s military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.

The United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday it had recorded 953 civilian deaths. The Kremlin denies targeting civilians.

The Russian invasion brought a wave of new births in Mykolaiv, as women went into labour through stress, said Podaranchuk. Katya is baby 49 since war began on Feb. 24.

“During the first 10 days we had a baby boom – a lot of births. I think this is because of a lot of stress… It was very unusual.”

Now the birth rate is back to normal for the hospital, but many people have fled the city.

Before having Katya, Kravchuk had been fearful, especially when there were explosions 500 metres (yards) from the hospital, she said.

“I’m really scared of what’s going to happen next, how it’s going to end.”

‘FIREWORKS’

About 540 km (330 miles) north east, in the city of Kharkiv, another newborn girl, Mashenka, lies in her mother’s arms, giving the same momentary sense of calm, of joy, of hope.

The moment she saw the daughter for whom she had been waiting for so long made “even these explosions seem like fireworks,” said mother Yana Kalashnikova after giving birth at the city’s regional perinatal centre.

“Mashenka is absolutely healthy, tomorrow she will go home with her mum and dad,” said Olexandr Kudryavykh, the head of the neonatal intensive care unit.

Iryna Kondratova, director of the clinic, explains that many of the staff haven’t gone home since the war began. They simply moved their parents, children, even pets, to the hospital.

She and her team have set up a labour room in the basement to protect women during the bombardments.

“We all work in a little bit extreme conditions,” she said.

Kondratova was given access to former England soccer star David Beckham’s Instagram account this week to help raise awareness and bring in funds to their operation.

In the low-ceilinged basement rooms there is joy and fear among the staff and patients.

A newborn, tucked up in blankets, sleeps in a crib in a room housing the stacks of files of the hospital archive.

In another room with beds lining the walls, tearful mother Yana cradles her baby. Her house has been bombed.

“I have nowhere to go,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Vitalii Hnidyi, Olga Vyshnevska, Parul Gupta; Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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