COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A Columbus nurse is back home from Poland, where she spent nearly three weeks volunteering along the Ukrainian border providing medical care to refugees.
Jessie Kichigin’s mother is Ukrainian, and she still has family living in the war-torn nation. When she saw Russian forces invade in late February, she said she knew she could put her nursing skills to work.
“My grandparents and my uncle are both on the western part, in Lviv. So, they’re physically safe right now,” she said. “My aunt and her child, my cousin, left pretty early on, and they went to Poland.”
But Kichigin says it was her father’s Russian roots that made it clear she had to come as soon as possible.
“On Telegram there is in a post where Ukrainians post captured or killed Russian soldiers so that Russian families can look and find them on the site to see if everyone’s okay or if someone passed away,” she said.
“And then in one of the posts, I saw a glimpse of my dad in him for whatever reason, and that was my pushing point.”
Kichigin traveled to Poland with a volunteer group called “Love4” to help refugees in need of medical attention.
“There was a big outbreak of rotavirus in the refugee centers, so we did have to treat a lot of people for that,” she said. “A few psych issues as well, people were asking for something to sleep or something to calm down.”
But the most eye-opening moments, Kichigin said, came through the connections she made, including two Polish volunteers who asked her group for a personal favor.
“One of their friends in Kyiv is a police officer, and he has a 6-year-old daughter there, and the 6-year-old daughter is diabetic, and they have run out of insulin for her,” she said.
Love4 gave the volunteers the insulin without hesitation, but Kichigan said her group later learned the man had died that day in the war.
Kichigan said she still keeps in touch with a man who needed heart medication but also someone to talk to.
“I’ll never forget, he said these words that will always stick with me,” she said. “He said, you know, ‘I lost my first home to Chernobyl, I lost my second one to this war and I don’t know if I’ll ever have a third.’”
Kichigin said she is already eager to go back so she can continue to help people who have been forced to leave their homes behind. For local people looking to help, she suggests donating money or supplies to Grace Evangelical Church in Grove City.