HSE’s minute’s silence was ‘emotional’, Ukrainian doctor in Dublin says

Dr Alexander Boychak has set up an initiative to help send medical supplies to Ukraine

A minute's silence, observed by patients, visitors and staff across HSE sites at noon on Tuesday, in solidarity with healthcare workers in Ukraine, was "very emotional" for consultant radiation oncologist Dr Alexander Boychak.

From Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, Dr Boychak (45), works at St Luke's Hospital, Dublin. Over the past 20 years he has worked in hospitals in counties Kerry, Tipperary, Galway and Louth.

He and his wife, also from western Ukraine, have two children aged 14 and 16.

Asked who in his family are in Ivano-Frankivsk, he says: “My mum, my cousins, my nephews, my wife’s parents – my children’s grandparents; my class mates. Everybody”.


He was last home in January, for his mother’s 80th birthday. Though people were “wary” of the Russian threat, they had been living with war in the east since 2014 and didn’t expect “this level of brutality or scale of destruction or barbarism. There is no purpose to it, but madness and genocide.

“My family are scared. There are no supplies. Healthcare is destroyed. They are surviving day by day. Food is running low and there is nothing in pharmacies or hospitals. There is a huge influx of people from central Ukraine so a small town of 7,000 becomes a town of 70,000. The infrastructure cannot cope with that.”

The most difficult aspect of being here, he says, was the initial sense of helplessness. Since the invasion on February 24th he and colleagues have set up a website, medicalhelpukraine.com, to send medical supplies.

It is accepting donations of money and supplies. Already a number of ambulances carrying supplies have been sent. Their cargos have been guided by what medics on the ground say they need: painkillers, bandages, crutches, creams and antibiotics, as well as surgical supplies.

The initiative has the support of the Ukrainian embassy in Dublin and Ukraine’s department of health.

“I am very grateful to all my colleagues who have been so supportive – donating and spreading the word, being there for me, my family and for Ukraine. It means a lot. I am very grateful to them,” said Dr Boychak.

“The minute’s silence was very emotional for me. I feel like 20 years helping Irish public here, is only a small fraction of what the Irish people have given me in a few short weeks. It is very overwhelming.”

Donations to the appeal can be made through a GoFundMe link at the website, medicalhelpukraine.com.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times