“We stopped in the middle of the road, near a field, and when I opened my door, I saw a land mine. I yelled to my German colleague, ‘Let’s not stop here!’Victoria Lifshitz, MDA Paramedic
As a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Magen David Adom’s mission includes assisting other countries in times of disaster. MDA’s mass-casualty experience is particularly helpful. Past missions include responding to natural disasters in the Philippines, Nepal, Turkey, India, and Haiti. And since the day Russia invaded Ukraine, MDA has been there too.
“We have the knowhow, the expertise, and the strong humanitarian drive to assist people in need and to share our experience with others,” explained Yoni Yagodovsky, director of international relations for MDA, during a recent webinar on MDA’s response to the conflict in Ukraine.
MDA paramedics, EMTs, and physicians have helped staff Israel’s field hospital in Ukraine, provided medical care in a field clinic in Moldova, and for some time now have been assisting the International Red Cross and the German Red Cross by evacuating the ill and injured in war-torn Ukraine.
Victoria Lifshitz, an MDA paramedic, recently finished her volunteer service with a German unit in Ukraine.
“Odessa is the hometown of my grandparents, and a I felt a special connection to the city, speaking their language,” said Lifshitz, who was born in Siberia, and emigrated to Israel with her family when she was a baby. “We were living in the war with the Ukrainian people, hearing the shelling, and helping get people out. We just want it to be over.”
While in Ukraine, she helped care for and transport patients with serious health diagnoses, such as an older gentleman with cancer living in Kharkiv. Transporting the patient was a harrowing journey: bombs blasted around them; their ambulance broke down and land mines were just feet from where they stopped on the side of the road.
“This patient was in an apartment with his wife, who was unable to care for him,” Lifshitz said. “Their son was serving in the army, and he could not have gotten out on his own. His wife was so thankful, she hugged us 10 times.”
From Kharkiv, the German and Israeli transport team moved the cancer patient to Dinipro, and then to Uman. But on their way, the check engine light came on.
“The light turned orange, and in 10 minutes the ambulance was smoking,” Lifshitz said. “We stopped at a gas station and asked if they knew what might have happened. A mechanic checked out the vehicle and said the fuel was mixed with something else, but even though we were 500 kilometers from our destination, we should be okay.”
The vehicle made it most of the way, but one hour from Uman, the engine conked out. “We stopped in the middle of the road, near a field, and when I opened my door, I saw a land mine,” Lifshitz said. “I yelled to my German colleague, ‘Let’s not stop here!’ He drove another 10 meters away from the mine.”
Another Red Cross team met Lifshitz and her unit where the ambulance broke down and transported the patient the rest of the way to Uman. After that, a team took him to Odessa, and another team from there to Moldova, and eventually he made it by plane to Germany, a six-day odyssey in total.
The man’s wife in Kharkiv texted Lifshitz when her husband made it safely to Germany.
“Ukraine has been under non-stop attack,” Lifshitz noted. “We do not want to forget about these people.”