SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY– More than three million Ukrainian refugees have fled their homes to find a new life in Poland. Many of them have arrived with medical issues that require immediate attention.
Pointing out one of the first Ukrainian refugees he met while volunteering one April week in Poland, Dr. Chaitanya Rojulpote saw in that man’s face the answer to a question he pondered from afar.
“Why are we, you know as physicians, why do we want to help people and then you have this humanitarian crisis happening,” says Dr. Rojulpote.
Dr. Rojulpote took a week of vacation from his work at The Wright Center for Community Health, then donated his time and skills in Poland at the border with Ukraine.
He joined a diverse group of physicians volunteering with the Israeli-French-based organization Sauveteurs Sans Frontiers which means Rescuers Without Borders. They tended to the injured and the ill.
“Families that were separated from other family members, women, children, men, old as you know 80s, or even as young as you know, 3 or 4 crossing over.”
He says he spent long hours personally tending to dozens of refugees a day. “If you’re making this journey halfway around the world to help these people, you’re not going to go back to your hotel and, you know, just stay in luxury.”
One woman he treated stands out as a symbol of resiliency — an 86-year-old woman named Nina. “She had traveled two days, you know, in her condition, her age, through the cold even at night when she finally crossed over and then collapsed and it was just from exhaustion and dehydration,” he says.
Even though Dr. Rojulpote’s work kept him in Poland, he did cross the border briefly into Ukraine to help someone in need. He says besides providing medical aid, he tried to provide each refugee he treated with something else. Hope.
“Let them know that you know there’s a better tomorrow, that this will hopefully come to an end and their lives can be restored one day.”
Dr. Rojulpote says his experience treating refugees has only reinforced his desire to provide medical aid to people near and far. He says he also inspired another doctor he knows to volunteer to help refugees.