The titans:

Eight peo­ple who con­trib­ute to a bet­ter fu­ture with daily ef­forts share their sto­ries, mo­ti­va­tion and per­spec­tive of the fu­ture

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by An­driy Holub, Ye­lyza­veta Hon­charova, Stanislav Ko­zliuk, Ro­man Malko, Yaroslav Tynchenko

Sto­ries of peo­ple who build the fu­ture on a daily ba­sis

Astereo­typ­i­cal image of a Ukrainian pub­lic ser­vant's of­fice con­jures a room with the pres­i­dent's por­trait on the wall, gold-cov­ered sou­venirs and a lux­u­ri­ous of­fice chair. Olek­sandr Danyliuk's of­fice at the Health Care Min­istry has lit­tle to do with this stereo­type. The small room hosts two em­ploy­ees. Each has a desk, a chair and a com­puter. Olek­sandr's desk is easy to spot. The en­tire wall be­hind his desk is cov­ered with photos and flags: from Maidan on one side, and from the war in the Don­bas on the other side. In between is the Ukrainian flag cov­ered with hand-scrib­bled lines. “This is the flag of our med­i­cal squad at Brigade 128. Ev­ery­one signed it. The flag trav­eled across the en­tire front­line, although it avoided the De­balt­seve pocket. We just for­got it when we rushed there,” Olek­sandr says. “Of course, we were tak­ing re­ally good care of the flag, that's why it's not damaged. Three of the peo­ple who signed it no longer live.” The pic­tures on the wall be­hind his desk fea­ture peo­ple and surg­eries Olek­sandr did on the front­line. “This is the long­est surgery in my life,” he points at one. “It lasted 12 hours but ended well. The per­son I did it for is al­ready able to walk.”

Then Olek­sandr points to a photo of Vadym Svyry­denko, a front­line medic who lost all his limbs. “He had some of the most dif­fi­cult in­juries I've seen,” Olek­sandr says.

From all the pho­tographs, only one has noth­ing to do with the war or the Maidan. It fea­tures a moun­tain hike. “Moun­tains are my hobby. I once had a dream to go to the Pamir Moun­tains. Now, I strug­gle to find time to walk across the Carpathi­ans.”

In the fall of 2016, Olek­sandr ac­cepted the of­fer to join the new team of the Health Care Min­istry led by Dr. Ulana Suprun. “Ulana con­vinced me. I spent a lot of time ex­plain­ing to her why I was say­ing ‘no'. But she found ef­fec­tive ar­gu­ments to per­suade me to say ‘yes'. I kept telling her that I'm not a pro­fes­sional civil ser­vant, that I can't do some­thing, or don't know how to do things. She told me that “pro­fes­sion­als” had been run­ning Ukraine's health care for 25 years. And what was the re­sult? Maybe, it was time for the young and un­tainted to get down to this work, she said? It made me think that we have to be re­spon­si­ble for the changes we launched dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Thanks to the team, to ev­ery­one around here, I agreed to join the min­istry. We've been to­gether for three years. That was the main thing that con­vinced me,” Olek­sandr shares. When asked whether it was dif­fi­cult to switch from a sur­geon's ta­ble to a pub­lic ser­vant's desk, he smiles: “I didn't switch com­pletely. I still do surg­eries. Civil ser­vants are al­lowed to do that. I don't like the min­istry work. But I re­al­ize how im­por­tant it is: it has al­ready brought some suc­cess. Not on the global scale yet; no­body re­ally feels their im­pact di­rectly. But there is progress.”

As a sur­geon, Olek­sandr went to the front­line twice: from Au­gust 2014 through Septem­ber 2015 as partof the Armed Forces, and in Au­gust 2016 as a vol­un­teer. Over those pe­ri­ods, he worked in the hottest front­line zones, in­clud­ing Stanyt­sia Luhan­ska, Shchas­tia,

Avdiyivka, and De­balt­seve dur­ing the most dif­fi­cult stage there in Jan­uary-Fe­bru­ary 2015. To­day, his desk is filled with piles of pa­pers.

“I came here from the vol­un­teer pool, took up re­spon­si­bil­ity and joined a cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive en­tity. It's eas­ier to do all this as a vol­un­teer. You are not re­stricted with bureau­cracy. Here, it takes a lot of time to get a doc­u­ment passed that could later be im­ple­mented with pos­i­tive im­pact. This is a tough job but it must be done con­sis­tently. That's why it is im­por­tant to en­gage vol­un­teers in the ex­ec­u­tive branch. That's where they can be in­stru­men­tal for the state, ex­pe­ri­ence all the rel­e­vant pro­cesses and try to change things. It was much more con­ve­nient to spend time on Facebook writ­ing how wrong ev­ery­thing is. When I came here, I re­alised how ac­tu­ally dif­fi­cult and com­plex this work is. How long will this ef­fort last? I don't know. But there is a hand­ful of peo­ple here who care: ev­ery­one in our team was ei­ther on the front­line or in the vol­un­teer move­ment. Even those who ac­tu­ally sit at this of­fice are linked to the war in one way or another,” Olek­sandr pon­ders as we talk about when the state will be able to per­form the func­tions that are cur­rently car­ried out by vol­un­teers.

Olek­sandr's tasks in his new of­fice in­clude co­or­di­na­tion and or­ga­ni­za­tion of med­i­cal as­sis­tance on the front­line. In par­tic­u­lar, he works with the Min­istry of De­fense on is­sues linked to the aid, evac­u­a­tion and pro­vi­sion for the military, as well as med­i­cal aid in law en­force­ment en­ti­ties over­all. In ad­di­tion to that, Olek­sandr takes care of med­i­cal aid for the front­line vil­lages and towns. “Civil health care there is in a dis­as­trous con­di­tion given the on­go­ing fight­ing and the huge deficit of hu­man and med­i­cal re­sources. Our task is to pro­vide, co­or­di­nate and help front­line hos­pi­tals as much as pos­si­ble since they are over­loaded and work un­der very dan­ger­ous con­di­tions,” he says. “We help doc­tors, nurses and vol­un­teers from else­where in Ukraine to go on of­fi­cial work trips to these hos­pi­tals, thus sup­port­ing them. Plus, we work with in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and part­ner states to chan­nel their donor re­sources to those fa­cil­i­ties. And they show progress. Some front­line hos­pi­tals have out­paced some Kyiv hos­pi­tals in terms of im­prove­ments. They are do­ing ren­o­va­tions, bring­ing in new equip­ment. Of course, this is done mainly thanks to vol­un­teers, but the state funds ren­o­va­tions at least,” Olek­sandr says. He adds that the short­age of staff at such hos­pi­tals ranges from 40 to 70%. Vol­un­teer doc­tors cover 5-10% in var­i­ous hos­pi­tals.

Olek­sandr says that his big­gest suc­cess in his new of­fice is the launch of a cam­paign to sup­ply every ser­vice­man with state-funded mod­ern med­i­cal kits based on NATO stan­dards. Such kits have been avail­able on the front­line for a while now, but mainly thanks to the ef­forts of vol­un­teers. Not all military had ac­cess to them.

When Olek­sandr talks about his work at the min­istry, he avoids dis­cussing dead­lines. “I didn't set any time­frames. I see things real­is­ti­cally,” he says. “Un­for­tu­nately, we had 22 health care min­is­ters over 25 years in Ukraine. I re­al­ize per­fectly well that we can be ousted any­time. It is not my goal to cling to this place just be­cause I want to. More­over, I'm a sur­geon and I like my job. But we are now build­ing the kind of the health care sys­tem that we would like to re­turn to as doc­tors and pa­tients in the fu­ture.”

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