Our patients, our children
Doctor Tatiana gave birth to her third child two days after the war in Ukraine started. Having heard the news, she decided to come back to work almost immediately.
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By 9am, the waiting room of the Rovniankova clinic in Bratislava is already crowded. The clinic is one of the four clinics in Slovakia designated to provide primary health care to Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia. Tatiana, a Slovak pediatrician, is busy running from one door to the other. Alongside Tatiana work 10 Ukrainian doctors whom she supervises – as part of an initiative to expand the health care system led by NGO Equita with support from UNICEF.
Despite their busy schedules Tatiana and her colleagues still find time to stop every time they see a child to ask them how they feel. "We have around 2,800 children and the same number of adults that visit the clinic regularly, says Tatiana. “But new people come every day,” she continues. “They are our patients, our children," she says and looks at the clown doctors, who also like her, try to entertain the kids while they are waiting.
The hardship of everyday reality
Tatiana begins her story recalling the moment she heard about the war. She was in the hospital, giving birth to her third daughter: "One realizes how terrible it must be for those people who are at the epicentre of the war. Having a newborn, I could not even imagine how hard it must be for mothers to flee their homes with small babies."
As a doctor, she always helped the most vulnerable. Despite her baby, Tatiana was determined to put herself back to work as soon as she could: "When I saw the amount of refugees in need of health care here in Slovakia, I knew our system would become overloaded,” she says. “Slovak doctors are already overburdened with patients, and suddenly, there was a demand to accommodate many more. My goal was to make sure that Ukrainians receive the care they need." The Rovniankova clinic is viewed as a good example for expanding the health care system so that every child in Slovakia – no matter where they are from – receives the care that they need.
Tatiana treated hundreds of Ukrainian children, and while she did that, she heard a lot of stories from their parents. What they all had in common was the challenging nature of everyday life in a new country: "They have all been taken out of their reality, their homes. They are here now, and they must slowly build their lives from scratch. I have huge respect for them; they work hard yet they don't lose their pride. I feel inspired by them and at the same time I’m grateful that we are safe here."
Being a doctor is a never-ending mission
Helping and protecting children is Tatiana’s lifelong mission, as well as a strong motivation to continue: "Children are a universe; everything else is irrelevant. We must take care of every one of them. It’s our job to create a new home for them. If we do not do it, then who will?" She asks and pays her attention to the little baby girl, who came with her parents for a check-up and to get a vaccine.
Being a mother herself, she aims to pass on the values of helping others to her kids: "I leave my family every day for work. My youngest daughter is less than a year old. I hope I am a positive role model for my children. I hope to give them a message that we need to take care of each other, especially if we have everything at home. I want them to understand that one day."