Ukraine horror: Children with cancer evacuated after Putin prevents vital chemotherapy


Among the evacuees arriving at a medical centre in Bocheniec, Poland was Lilia Polyhach, whose younger brother Olexiy is battling cancer. She told BBC News: “All my family was worried about my mum and my brother because it was so hard and it was a very long journey. “He had three operations and then he had chemotherapy. But he didn’t complete the therapy because the war started.”

Olexiy himself said that he was happy to have arrived in Poland, but that he was tired by the long journey and also wanted to return to his home in Ukraine.

The medical evacuations are being coordinated by the US-based St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in tandem with the Herosi Foundation, a Polish organisation that works to support children in their fight against cancer.

While arrival in Poland may remove the young patients from the immediate impact of the Russia–Ukraine conflict, such by no means brings their dangers to an end.

After being seen by paediatric oncologists, the decision will be made for each child as to whether their case is serious enough to mandate urgent treatment in Poland.

Those in a more stable condition, however, will face a further journey as they are transported to hospitals elsewhere in Europe with the capacity to look after them and resume their treatment that was interrupted by the war with Russia.

A spokesperson for the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital said: “We are pleased to be working with the Herosi Foundation to coordinate humanitarian efforts.”

The goal, they added, is “to assist with the transition and continuation of clinical care and treatment of Ukrainian children with cancer and blood diseases.

“On Saturday, the Foundation’s building in Bocheniec, now officially named the Unicorn Marian Wilemski Clinic, welcomed the first group of Ukrainian children and their families.

READ MORE: Poland ‘under attack’ – fears for Ukraine’s neighbour over Ukraine war

The Unicorn Marian Wilemski Clinic to which the children are being transported, they explained, is named in part after “the healing legend of unicorns”.

Polish paediatric oncologist Anna Zelwianska told BBC News that the situation for the young cancer patients was “very serious”.

Some of the children, she noted, could potentially die as a result of having their treatments interrupted by the war.

She added: “Most of these kids are in a life-threatening situation and any kind of delay in the treatment is very bad for them.”

Last night, the first batch of the young cancer patients assessed as being stable enough to be relocated were transported by a team of volunteers to a hospital in Germany.

Meanwhile, efforts continue to find spaces for the rest of the children in hospitals across Europe, as evacuations from Ukraine continue.


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