Report from Ukraine
Where to begin? When Dr. Gary Jerkins first approached me about joining Team USA, HMI Medical Conference in Ukraine, I had absolutely no idea what I could possibly have to offer. The doctors, nurses, and others from the United States went as faculty for the 2nd Annual Medical Conference in Ivano-Frankivsk. Each of these professionals volunteered his or her time to share information, procedures, expertise, and love to some 150+ medical students from 24 different countries. The theme for this year’s conference was “Making a Great Physician — The Heart Factor.” What I witnessed during the 10 days of travel can only be described as “filling.”
It was not until 2006 that the Holodomor, a devastating famine which took place in the Ukraine region of the Soviet Union, was recognized in the Ukrainian parliament as a deliberate act of genocide against the country’s people. The artificially introduced food shortage created under Stalin was at its peak in June 1933, with nearly 28,000 people starving to death every day. Estimates have put the total number of fatalities at approximately 7 million.
Historians today believe the genocide was planned by Soviet leaders to quash any attempts at Ukrainian independence and prevent uprising from farmers who resisted collectivization (confiscating all private farms and livestock and making them government-owned) under the Soviet regime. Source: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/holodomor-victims-memorial
Our guide explained the symbolism so carefully designed to honor and lift up those who died of starvation. On August 4th, 2015 a monument depicting a field of wheat stalks was erected in Washington, DC for the same purpose.
After a day and a half of touring Kiev, we boarded an overnight train to Ivano-Frankisvk. There we were met once again by a welcoming committee of mostly medical students who would be taking master classes from our team. While the others prepared for their sessions, I met up with my contact. Dr. Galina Grygoruk. Dr. Galina teaches at the university, sees her own patients, works on medical studies, AND PAINTS! She took me on a tour of the town and we discussed some last minute logistics for a workshop she planned for me to teach there.
The first day of the conference, I snuck in to see a few of our team members in action.
We said farewell to our new friends and boarded the train back to Kiev. One more very special dinner with a young lady who is graduating from pharmacy school; a short 3-hour night; then a plane ride home. I love everyone of these people. I so wish I could go back again some year.
How I wish our entire world felt like this trip. So many different cultures and religions sharing, giving, and loving one another. My life is richly blessed.