Ukraine refugees arrive at the railway station in the Hungarian-Ukrainian border town of Zahony on Tuesday. (Attila Kisbenedek – AFP / Getty Images)
By Amanda Thomason March 1, 2022 at 3:24pm
Many women and children have fled Ukraine as Russian attacks intensified. They packed nothing but the essentials and headed for safer ground.
The family of a pediatrician known only as “Dr. Y” was no different, as husband, wife and two sons, ages 5 and 1, traveled to western Ukraine and away from their home in Kyiv.
Dr. Y, who has been a pediatrician for over 15 years, said his family was looking forward to so many wonderful, ordinary events before the Russian invasion this month.
“We bought a bee costume for my son, Lucas, for his spring holiday in his kindergarten,” he told NBC’s “Today” show via phone and WhatsApp. “It was planned for March 3.”
Now no one in the family knows what that date — Thursday — will bring, but the father is doing his best to ensure the safety of his family.
After filling just one emergency bag and loading up into the family car, they traveled for 40 hours.
“Traffic is horrible — like any apocalyptic movie,” Dr. Y told “Today.”
“Three hours of driving [using] different streets to leave Kyiv and get to a highway,” he said. “Lots of cars with kids; pets [being taken] away from big cities; long lines to petrol stations; lots of Ukrainian military cars and troops going into Kyiv.”
The parents tried to prepare their sons as best they could for the uncertainty before them, as many Ukraine parents have been forced to do.
“My wife and I have talked to [our children], trying to explain and prepare them earlier,” Dr. Y said.
Though the family brought only the essentials, Dr. Y said he made sure to also bring one very special toy of his son’s to bring him comfort and help him hold the faith: “one favorite Batman toy, to be brave.”
“We used my son Lucas’s favorite superhero, Batman, as an example to be brave and fast,” he explained. “[We have] asked Lucas to help with our younger son. We also trained him to be fast and calm, [telling him that] our army will take care of us and protect us.
“[My children] are under stress because of the night explosions, and staying in bomb shelters for hours. … Our biggest fear is to lose friends, relatives, children in every city in Ukraine.”
The plan was for Dr. Y to stay with his family for two days before turning around and heading back home to face the Russians and whatever the war would bring — a sobering reality, but one the doctor and father said he was prepared for.
“I am ready to fight and I am angry as any Ukrainian now,” he said. “With no doubts.”
He’s still functioning as a pediatrician, too, inundated with calls from terrified parents. He said he’s doing his best to reassure them, but he knows there could be much darker days ahead and his career could face its most tragic but crucial period.
“My biggest concern is [any] direct attacks on hospitals,” he said. “We have almost three big multi-departments, clinics, and I think that they have kids [who have injuries from the war]. We are ready to work in any situation — we have all the equipment to continue our work. We are ready to work in any situation.”
Despite the uncertainty that Ukraine is facing, Dr. Y is holding out hope for the near future, powered by his love for his family.
“We don’t want any war — we don’t need Russian ‘help,’” he said. “Our biggest hope is to celebrate our son’s first birthday on March 19, at home with no explosions in peaceful Kyiv.”