“I live in hell”: NYT visited the Kyiv psychiatric hospital, where fighters burn their spiritual wounds


Unfortunately, the war hurts not only the body, but also the psyche of Ukrainian defenders. American journalists visited the Pavlov City Psychiatric Hospital in Kyiv.

This hospital is often referred to simply as “Pavlovka”. There, in June 2022, a temporary department for the military with 40 beds was opened there, but in 6 weeks their number grew to 100.

They suffer from insomnia, nightmares and flashbacks

The Soldiers' Chamber is a quiet place with high ceilings, chess boards and a ping-pong table. Reminiscent of a holiday home, the only difference is that there are no handles on the doors.

A man rises from the bed. He freezes and stares at the floor, gasping for air and unable to say it. He cannot say that a month has passed since the tragedy. The doctor starts talking about the military.

“There were four of them. They stood at the front line in eastern Ukraine. That night, a Russian drone was shot down in the sky. A small victory. Then its fragments flew down, pieces of torn metal crashed into people below. He was the only one left standing,” the doctor said.

After that, the military held the position all night and the next day. After all, two soldiers were wounded and one was killed.

When they came for him, the military man could no longer find a word. The psychiatrist says, “That's all. He shut himself up and doesn't want anything.”

After the tragedy, the fighter locked himself in / Photo by The New York Times

53-year-old Victor said that he was a teacher at school, then some of the students became brothers. They have been in the same trenches since the beginning of the war. He survived and they didn't.

“I dream of brothers. As if we are sitting in a trench, and they ask: “Vitya, why are you not shooting, you see, they are approaching?” And I panic. It is very, very painful ,” Victor said.

Victor says that he survived, but his brothers did not / Photo by The New York Times

45-year-old Ruslan received a shell shock during the dismissal of Kherson. Among his relatives, he only has an aunt and cousins. His wife passed away 4 years ago, they had no children.

We could stay awake for five days and not eat. When they took the right bank of Kherson, many of my guys died. They burned down in armored personnel carriers – I saw everything with my own eyes. A grenade hit me, but it didn't explode. Hit the bulletproof vest and flew 20 meters away. Contusion, – said Ruslan.

He notices that his relatives sometimes call him, because he is “alone”.

Each of the fighters is in pain in the hospital / Photo by The New York Times

Second Lieutenant Ruslan was an art teacher before the invasion of Russia. Now he can't help feeling that something terrible is about to happen.

In Bakhmut, he commanded a sapper unit and was assigned to replace the Ukrainian lines, driving a car loaded with ammunition and people. He did everything, but now this experience is with him all the time.

All the horrors in Bakhmut are now beginning to haunt me. It was hell. I live in hell,” Ruslan said.

Another soldier can't sleep, another has lost his appetite. Some suffer from nightmares and flashbacks. The military complain that their bodies fail, refuse to “work”. And there are many such stories in the hospital.

Approximately 70% of soldiers will return to service

The director of the hospital, Vyacheslav Mishiev, said that the standard treatment is medicines. After 3-4 weeks, the soldiers return to their units to be examined by a medical commission. Mishiev estimates that approximately 70% of them will return to service.

This is the reality in which we operate. Either we return them to the ranks of the Armed Forces, or we recommend declaring them unfit for military service due to pronounced personality changes and psychological trauma, the doctor said.

Doctor Antonina Andrienko recalls that she sometimes listens to the military in her office for hours. Starts by asking questions about simple things – pain in a soldier's back or stomach, sidesteps the topic of terrible things they've seen.

According to Andrienko, sometimes soldiers are hard to stop. There was a soldier whose parents lived in the gray zone, and they were sitting in the kitchen when someone threw a grenade through the window. He went home for their remains and took two bags. One for father, one for mother.

In the current situation, no pills will help, the doctor said.

He adds that you need to listen to their stories, because wives and children cannot do this.

Leave a Reply