When Tana arrived in our hospital department two and a half years ago, she had come from Poltava, in the Great East of Ukraine, for an advanced training course in the management of HIV and viral hepatitis. Six months of immersion to learn how to handle antiretroviral drugs and see how we faced, in France, discriminatory attitudes towards people at risk of acquiring HIV, sex workers, drug users, migrants, sometimes harshly stigmatized in Eastern Europe. At the same time arrived Maryna, also from Ukraine but from the South, for a longer immersion of one year, with the ambition of improving her knowledge on the treatment of very frequent infections in her country of origin, such as tuberculosis or hepatitis C.
Close links between Eastern and Western infectious disease specialists
Their presence among us testified to the close ties that we, infectious disease specialists from Western Europe, had forged with our colleagues from Eastern Europe, like an International in the fight against HIV (1). But we have been swept away by the Covid-19 pandemic: they, caught for months in the whirlwind of lockdowns and border closures, which helped us care for our sick when there were so many needs in Ukraine; we are sucked into the black hole for weeks without rest. Then each returned to their hospital to take advantage of this incredible experience accumulated during this extraordinary period.
Short-lived lull because for two weeks, Tana and Maryna have been thrown on the road, this time with children and very small suitcases, one heading for Poland, the other pushed towards Romania. After endless hours at the borders waiting for official papers, each was welcomed by members of our “HIV International”. Each has left behind parents too old to flee the war, spouses banned from leaving the country. Each speaks Russian, has worked with Russian colleagues, treated Russian patients. And each had to abandon their post.
Tomorrow, how many indirect deaths?
With their departure, and that of thousands of their sisters and brothers, there are hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV, tuberculosis patients, patients with Covid-19 and a myriad of other infectious diseases. and transmissible which are now without care and at risk of infecting others. Today we count the direct deaths of war, tomorrow we will count the deaths of its indirect consequences: infectious diseases, maternal and child mortality, psychiatric sequelae…
Tomorrow, we welcome Tetiana, our new intern. Originally from kyiv, she was due to arrive alone in May, but she has just crossed all of Europe with her two children on foot, by train and by plane. His four-week stay turned into a stay with no return date. She too left a husband behind, a house blasted from the outskirts of kyiv by an explosive device, friends scattered all over Europe. A job in our hospital for Tetiana, a school in Paris for her children, a roof offered by the Ukrainians of France. Tana in Warsaw and Maryna in Bucharest experience the same outpouring of generosity from our Polish and Romanian alter egos. Solidarność, solidaritate, солідарність. Solidarity.