Natalia Iantsevych starts each day at 5 a.m. by reading Ukrainian news and listening to updates from President Zelensky to see what happened overnight as her country is bombarded by the Russian military.

When she arrives at work at Maine Medical Center, her colleagues check in to see how she is doing and to make sure her family in Ukraine is safe.

“It’s so heartbreaking to see all of this genocide currently happening in a peaceful country,” said Iantsevych, who grew up in Ukraine and now lives in Falmouth. “They are bombing kindergartens. They are bombing ambulances.”

Iantsevych, a 39-year-old nurse practitioner in the otolaryngology department, said she could not stand by and watch from a distance. She leaves Sunday for Lviv, where she will help care for wounded soldiers and refugees. She expects to be there for at least a month, but said her stay could stretch much longer depending on the circumstances and need.

“It touched my heart,” she said of the attacks on Ukraine. “I feel I can’t just stay here and watch and do nothing. I’m prepared for whatever challenge comes my way to help civilians and brave soldiers who need it the most.”

Iantsevych is from Kovel, a city near the Polish border in northwestern Ukraine. She moved to Maine 19 years ago to attend St. Joseph’s College, where she earned two degrees. Her father and extended family are still in the Kovel area and Iantsevych visits them three times a year.


Three weeks ago, she visited family in Poland and Slovakia, where her sister lives. The threat of Russian aggression was very much on their minds.

“The whole family sat around the table and talked about this potential war, but we were hoping it wouldn’t happen,” she said. “We thought Putin was just trying to scare people. Unfortunately, it didn’t go how we were hoping.”

Iantsevych does not expect to see her family while she is in Ukraine this time. She will be in Lviv, three hours from her hometown, about 50 miles from the border with Poland and a critical stop for refugees fleeing war.

Lviv normally is known as a tourism hub with a historic downtown. But it has now become a refuge for people fleeing Kyiv and other areas under Russian attack.  The main train station in the city is packed with people attempting to move on to Poland or other parts of western Ukraine.

More than 150 community buildings, including schools, theaters and art galleries, and 100 religious institutions in Lviv have been turned over to house the displaced, Washington Post reported. Residents have opened their homes to people fleeing cities under bombardment.

Ukrainian officials told the Washington Post that more than 31,000 internally displaced people are being hosted in the region and another 100,000 have moved on to Poland.


When Iantsevych decided she would take a leave from her job and go back to Ukraine, her sister was able to connect her with Ukrainian military personnel who said Iantsevych’s help was needed in Lviv. Injured troops from Kyiv and Kharkiv are being taken there to be treated because it is safer, at least for now, she said.

Flying directly into Ukraine is not an option because airports have been destroyed, so Iantsevych will fly from the United States to Vienna. From there, she will take a train to Lviv, a journey of unknowns that could take more than a day. She has arranged for someone to meet her at the train station, but she still does not know exactly where she will stay once she gets there.

Iantsevych believes she’ll be working in a regular hospital similar to Maine Medical Center, but she’s already been warned to be prepared for the possibility that the hospital could be evacuated to a safer area if necessary.

“They told me I should be ready to work in a tent if needed,” she said. She says she’ll do whatever she can to help.

Iantsevych said there is an “extreme need” for medical supplies in Ukraine, including basic over-the-counter items like Tylenol and more advanced equipment, including defibrillators and surgical supplies. While she is gone, her friend Anna Stasiv, another nurse practitioner who is from Ukraine and lives in the Portland area, will set up and run a GoFundMe campaign to ship medical supplies to Ukraine. They are hoping that Maine Med’s parent organization, MaineHealth, and other medical providers and medical supply companies will contribute.

In Ukraine, Iantsevych will help direct the supplies to hospitals.

On Friday, she spent the day gathering warm clothing and any medical supplies she could carry. She was hoping to get a Doppler ultrasound, a piece of equipment she said is critical to help treat the injured.

“I’m super thankful to Maine Medical that they let me go to Ukraine with the condition that I might not be able to come back in two months or three months,” she said. “They were saying, ‘Come back anytime and do what your heart tells you.’ That was huge.”

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