Child fleeing war in Ukraine left in need of cancer treatment at refugee centre in Poland

The fragility of life is being protected in the most basic of ways in this temporary clinic set up to treat those fleeing war, as ITV News Correspondent Lucy Watson reports

What words can a mother use to comfort her four-year-old child? A child, that has fled a war in the past 48 hours but who is battling cancer, and now can’t get the chemotherapy she needs in Poland.

They are safe from the bombs and the missiles now, but they don’t know when she can be taken to hospital, where that will be and what treatment she can have here. This was the story that met us when we arrived at a make-shift medical centre in Korczowa.

This is yet another border crossing point between Poland and Ukraine. The small clinic was set-up just days ago. It is inside a shopping centre.

'We need help in Poland' Between treating patients, I quickly got to speak to Martin Kuczer.

He is an orthopaedic surgeon who volunteered to help here as of Friday.

He has been looking after the little girl with cancer.

Martin Kuczer is an orthopaedic surgeon looking after some of the people in the makeshift clinic. Credit: ITV News

He knows she is seriously ill but he can’t understand her medical documents.

“We have the Ukrainian papers but we don’t know the history of her treatment. She needs to be treated in hospital, but the hospital is 400km from here. We are just waiting and waiting for an ambulance to take her, then she can go somewhere better.” The fragility of life is being protected in the most basic of ways here. Every drug, every plaster, every bandage has been donated.

The staff are state paramedics, volunteers, and Italy’s largest NGO InterSOS also has doctors working here. Alice Silvestro is one of them.

She told me: “We are treating people with fevers, colds and headaches. People with bad injuries on their feet because they have walked for so long or waited for so long in line.

"There are also people with back problems. These are all minor, but there are also people with serious anxiety and stress and chronic illnesses that need vital, ongoing medication.

"And today, we have also had a young child with serious heart disease that desperately needed treatment in hospital. They have just found a place for her and she has left in ambulance.” The Polish authorities have said they will accept all Ukrainian prescriptions in pharmacies in Poland, without any problems. It is something that never occurred to me until now, but of course.

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People with long term illnesses, fleeing their homeland in wartime, will only have a finite amount of medication with them, if any. While we were in the clinic, a man was brought in immediately after he’d crossed the border in a wheelchair. He was suffering from hyperthermia.

A baby was rushed in with a high temperature that hadn’t stopped crying since last night. They were worried because they couldn’t work out what was wrong with her.

The clinic was set up hastily over the last couple of days to respond to demand. Credit: ITV News

Some of the medics here are working 24 hour shifts, then have 24 hours off, then work another 24 hours.

Others are just surviving on two hour breaks to shower and eat before carrying on. They want to treat as many people as they can. Each family, each face I met had a life in Ukraine. A job. A home.

Now, they have a yoga mat on a shopping mall floor.

Passengers rush to board a train leaving to Slovakia from the Lviv railway station, in the west of Ukraine. Credit: AP

I talked to Vera, and she put it simply: “I have learned about war in my history books. World War One. World War Two. I am living the third. This is the 21st century and it just can’t be. It’s horrible.” Vera is 20, and until Thursday she was training to be a doctor in Ivano-frankovsk, in Western Ukraine, 120 miles away. She fled with her sister and her five-year-old niece. They had to leave her parents behind, but she refuses to feel sorry for herself. “I think only about Ukraine. I don’t think about me, only about my country, my president. He is the best president in the world. I am proud of him so much.” But tonight, the elderly sleep next to teenagers, and parents try any which way to get their children to sleep. This is not where they want to be.

Julia often thinks of her husband, a solider who is fighting in eastern Ukraine. Credit: ITV News

Then I met Julia. A courageous young mother who spoke English passionately to me. “I love the English,” she said: “You tell the world what is happening to me. I don’t want to move my home. I want live in my country. I love my country. Ukraine is my home.”

Julia is from near Kyiv. Her husband is in the army and left them a month ago to fight in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine. She doesn’t know when she’ll see him again. They have a daughter, Catherine. She is 11-months-old. “My husband is a military man. I am not afraid for me, but for my daughter and for my husband. Half of my soul is here. The other half there.” Here, mothers bravely play with their children like all is well. They hug them like nothing has changed. But many are carrying so much. Julia has made a friend since she arrived at the shopping centre tonight. Another mother. Another military wife. Both have a deal with their husbands. They demand one text message, one word every day... Alive.