‘So inhumane’: Spokane doctor at Ukraine-Poland border shares firsthand experience

LVIV, Ukraine — More than two million Ukrainians are running away from their homes to escape the war. Others live in fear every day as Russian troops close on the capital. One Spokane doctor is currently in Eastern Europe seeing what Ukrainians are experiencing.

Dr. Kyle Varner flew to Poland on Sunday, wanting to be on the ground and to help refugees. Varner traded in his title as a hospitalist at the Holy Family Hospital for a war zone. Heading to Eastern Europe was his choice, deciding to work with non-governmental agency MedGlobal.

On Friday, Varner was in Lviv, Ukraine. Since he arrived earlier in the week, he’s been going between the Ukraine and Poland border to help wherever he can.

Varner delivered medical supplies to people in need, which he said Ukrainians were grateful for. The medical supplies were donated from Providence and other companies, which Varner estimates cost between $30,000 to $50,000.

“They were really, really happy to receive them. The supplies from Providence along with a couple of other companies that gave me some supplies, really helpful there. Their supply chains are really stressed” Varner said of Ukraine.

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Varner is watching families get “broken apart,” as he helped families flee to Poland. More than a million Ukrainians ran to Poland since the start of the Russian invasion.

“You’ve got this sorrow, you’ve got these young children, their father’s in danger and they’re running into a strange country. It’s something that’s so inhumane and it pulls at your heartstrings,” he said. “We have got to, as a world, we’ve got to come together and we’ve got to stand with Ukraine and stop this.”

Including sorrow, he says the atmosphere is tense in Ukraine. Whenever he’s on his way to Ukraine, he says it’s obvious he’s in a place that’s at war.

There are piles of sandbags, metal tank stoppers called hedgehogs out, and Varner said there are armed soldiers everywhere.

“You can’t take photos, there are lots of people with guns everywhere, at street intersections, and you have to have your passport out and show it,” he said.

When he’s there, Varner said he has an underlying sense of nervousness.

“You feel like, after the day, you feel a little exhausted,” Varner described.

He says it’s difficult for him to sleep there sometimes. Thursday night, he ended up sleeping in a hospital bed, which was more nerve-wracking as Russians are targeting hospitals. Friday night, he stayed in a hotel.

He went to the hospital to offer his services, however, he said they weren’t in need.

Now, he’s waiting for his next job. He’s heading to the medical aid station at the train station to help anyone in need.

“This is war, things constantly change. There is chaos. We just try to figure that, just go with it and try to help wherever we can help,” he said.

Varner plans to be at the Poland-Ukraine border through the month.

READ: How you can help Ukraine from the Inland Northwest