On February 24, as the Russians invaded Ukraine again, 19 baby girls were born in Kyiv’s major maternity hospital.
All were given the same name: Victory
It takes an indomitable spirit to visualise an invader vanquished as you give birth to the sound of enemy bombing. But as Dr. Lyubov Mochalova, 50, the hospital’s obstetrician-gynecologist, points out, nature beats fear.
Photo: Dr. Lubov Mochalova is holding a newborn baby along with their parents in the bombshell. The photo is provided by Lubov Mochalova
"We all believe in victory"
Elsewhere in Hospital No3 Candidate of Medical Sciences, mothers were busy with pots of children's paints, daubing their newborn's feet yellow and blue, the now-familiar colours of Ukraine, and making prints of them.
"We all believe in victory," says Dr. Mochalova."There has been a huge surge of patriotism that has bought out the best qualities: cohesion, empathy, generosity. And a great courage."
Photo: Pregnant women and young mothers in a bombshell under the maternity hospital. The photo is provided by Lubov Mochalova
"...childbirth is a process that distracts from everything else. Even war..."
On the first day of the war, the maternity section was hastily moved to the basement bomb shelter, a relic of the Word War Two.
“It is one thing to give birth in a modern maternity ward and quite another to be in labour in a bomb shelter. It is technically difficult. But childbirth is a process that distracts from everything else. Even war. It is only afterwards that fear returns”, she said.
Photo: Ukrainian parents with their newborns in a bombshell under the maternity hospital No3. The photo is provided by Lubov Mochalova
Russian-born Dr. Mochalova has many stories to tell. Women from destroyed cities like Hostomel and Irpin could not return to homes that no longer existed and remained in hospital while relatives sought accommodation.
Of a young mother who, after a long and difficult birth on February 24, the day of the invasion, sent her a postcard on March 24 to say they "we are safe and well and one month old."
Photo: Women in a maternity unit, organised in a bombshell under the maternity hospital. The photo is provided by Lubov Mochalova
"They cannot bring flowers, so they give their tears."
Men's attitudes have changed under tension, and staff has found new fathers have become more sentimental. "They cannot bring flowers, " one noted, "So they give their tears."
Due to the massive numbers fleeing the country, the number of births at Kyiv No 3 Hospital has reduced to a few a day. "But I have no thought of leaving, " says Dr. Mochalova."My place is where I can help people. This is my country."