| Max Delany |
DONETSK, Ukraine (AFP) – Sitting up with difficulty in her hospital bed, Raisa Bulda says that despite months of treatment she still feels like she is only just beginning her recovery.
It was back in August that a shell tore through her home on the edge of rebel bastion Donetsk in eastern Ukraine and left her screaming for help in a pool of blood.
But it was last week that she finally had a full operation on her shattered right leg and so much work – getting back on her feet and trying to return to a normal life – still lies ahead.
“It will be long and tough,” says the pensioner, 67, looking down at the metal brace clamped from her knee to her ankle.
It will take some six more months of supervision before doctors say her leg will have healed as much as it can.
“After the course of treatment, if all is okay, I will then be able to try to learn how to walk, just like a little child,” the former nurse says.
The brutal fighting between government forces and Russian-backed rebels has been raging already for some eight months.
But recovering from the injuries inflicted by the mortars and missiles will take some residents of the region much longer.
The United Nations estimates that more than 10,200 people – many of them civilians – have been wounded since April. Another 4,700 have lost their lives.
Upstairs in the children’s ward of Donetsk’s trauma hospital, Nikita Arkhipov, 16, talks softly as he tells how a game of football with his friends turned into tragedy.
In early November he was playing in goal during a kick about on a school playing field not far from where Ukrainian forces and rebels are battling for control of the ruined Donetsk airport when mortars hit the pitch.
Two of his friends were killed instantly and shrapnel ripped apart Nikita’s knee.
“I called my mum and told her that they had blown my leg off. That’s what I thought – it was so painful.”
Doctors managed to save his leg, however, and he now lies with it bruised and battered in a metal brace.
He is already able to move around somewhat with the help of a crutch and says he’s determined to recover.
“Getting better is all in your head, if you’re in the right mood then you can get better.”
The head of the children’s orthopaedic ward Vladimir Voropayev says that to improve from such wounds will take a long course of not only physiotherapy but also psychological counselling.
“It is a whole complex of treatments that is needed for such children,” he says.
Despite the fact that the doctors have not been paid for six months, the sparkling hospital remains one of the best in the region and everything needed to treat them is still available.
The doctor says the treatment for Nikita and three other boys who were injured along with him is being covered by the charitable fund of Ukraine’s richest man Rinat Akhmetov, himself from Donetsk.
Despite this, however, it is unlikely that Nikita will ever fully recover from the wounds he sustained.
“The impact of this will remain whatever happens,” says Nikita’s foster mother, Larissa.
But top of his class and particularly strong in mathematics, she says, he is brave and determined – and he’s already come a long way.
“He’s returning to normal life. There was depression and he refused to eat but he’s returning.”