A Brave Choice

Doctors often have the means to surround themselves with comfort. When you see a physician in a war zone, it’s most likely because they want to be there. They want to use their skills and abilities to help the sick, wounded, and dying…those less fortunate than themselves. I’ve worked with a lot of doctors in uncomfortable, often dangerous places that they didn’t have to be. When the invariable question comes up, “Why are you here?” their answer is almost universal. Without being boastful, they usually say something to the effect of, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” You have to admire that; it embodies the best of human nature.

And such is the case with Valentyna (58) and Arkady (age 62) Glushenko, a Ukrainian husband and wife physician team that refuses to run from the trauma that is ripping apart their homeland.

A pair of Ukrainian soldiers pass by doctors Arkady and Valentyna Glushenko (right), who are taking a break to chat outside their hospital in Slovyansk, Ukraine, on June 8, 2022. Image Credit: Heidi Levine

They could have left before the artillery started, before their hospital had to be protected by layer upon layer of sandbags, before military and civilian ambulances teaming with wounded lined up outside, with patients sometimes waiting hours to see exhausted healthcare workers. But they didn’t. It would have been the easy thing to do. Over seventy percent of their staff had already taken off and moved to a safer location.

The Glushenko’s children begged them to follow suit and save themselves. After all, doctors are no more immune to enemy artillery strikes than anyone else. But they could not and will not leave despite the fact that Russian forces are currently within ten miles of their city.