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UKRAINE

German hospital reunites Ukrainian patients and medics

The University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH) in northern Germany has so far cared for around 500 Ukrainian patients at its sites, as well as accommodating 61 nursing staff from Ukraine.

Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, talks to a Ukrainian being treated in the surgery department of the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH)
Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, talks to a Ukrainian being treated in the surgery department of the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH). Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Four Ukrainian flags are flapping in the cold northern wind outside the university hospital (UKSH) in Luebeck on Germany’s Baltic coast.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukrainian nurses and doctors at this ultra-modern facility have been treating patients from their home country.

Originally from Chernivtsi, close to Ukraine’s border with Romania, Oleksandra Shaniotailo, 31, was taken on as a nurse two months ago.

“I am waiting for my nursing degree to be recognised,” she tells AFP in her newly acquired German.

“In Ukraine, I worked for 11 years in a hospital,” says the young woman, who is waiting to meet the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How is Germany supporting refugees from Ukraine?

Young refugees

On the fringes of a meeting of G7 foreign ministers a few dozen kilometres away from Luebeck, Ukraine’s top diplomat has come to visit the hospital, where 61 young refugees have been taken on as nursing staff.

Between selfies with the guest of honour, the new team members share their patriotic support with Kuleba.

“I am working in outpatient care for five months before starting a four-month course for my degree to be recognised,” says Anastasiia Demicheva, 20, from the same town in Bukovina.

The fragile young woman, whose make-up barely hides her pale complexion, is serving meals to patients, bathing them or helping them walk up and down the corridors of the vast hospital, which employs some 2,000 medics between Luebeck and the more northern city of Kiel.

In parallel, Anastasiia is taking German courses to be able to speak fluently with her patients.

The Ukrainian foreign minister also visits the bedsides of the Ukrainian patients who have been transferred to the hospital.

“We have cancer patients whose chemotherapy has been interrupted” by the war, UKSH president, Jens Scholz, 63, tells AFP. Among them is Oleg Kovalenko, whose cancer was diagnosed in Kyiv. With a sallow face and wearing his yellow hospital gown, he tells the visiting minister how grateful he is to be receiving treatment in Germany.

‘Thank you’

“It’s an enormous privilege,” he says in Ukrainian, before saying “danke” (“thank you”) in German. The hospital is also hosting Ukrainian children who need major surgery or suffer from cardiac problems.

“We’ve taken on nearly 500 Ukrainian patients” since the end of February, says Scholz.

When war came to Ukraine, the hospital sent equipment and medicine to hospitals in Lviv, Zhytomyr and Ivano-Frankivsk. More than three million euros ($3.1 million) of aid have been, while a fifth support package of respiratory equipment, beds and operating equipment is ready to be sent to Ukraine on May 19th.

Behind the Ukraine partnership, first established in 2014, are a man and wife from the country who work at the hospital, employed as a surgeon and a biologist, respectively.

READ ALSO: ‘Could have been us’: Why British-German couple took in Ukrainian refugees

“I’ve been here for 12 years and have become the head of transplants” at the hospital, Hryhoriy Lapshyn, 40, tells AFP. From Germany “I can better help people in Ukraine than I could if I had stayed,” he says.

The young Ukrainians who have just arrived will become nurses. “Ukraine will benefit, too,” he says.

The pair do not hide the pain they feel seeing the horrors which have descended on their country, dismissing critics who say they should be working with war-wounded in Ukraine.

“My heart bleeds,” says Olha Lapshyna, her voice trembling. “I ask myself often what I am doing here. Why do I have the privilege of being here while other women stayed in Ukraine?”

“Sometimes there are no more emotions, just things to do,” her husband adds, saying he has been caught in a whirlwind since the start of the war. “You have to help people. You get calls non-stop.”

On his swift tour through the hospital, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister pays homage to their work. “War is not only soldiers who are fighting,” Kuleba says. “I’m very touched that you found the role that you can play” in this war, he says.

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ENERGY

German housing co-op slammed for restricting access to tenants’ hot water

A housing cooperative in Saxony has taken the drastic energy- saving measure of restricting access to hot water over fears that Russia could turn off the gas taps in Germany this winter.

German housing co-op slammed for restricting access to tenants' hot water

In a Facebook post that swiftly went viral on Tuesday, the Dippoldiswalde Housing Cooperative in Saxony announced that it would be restricting tenants’ access to hot water at certain times of the day. 

“The prices for gas and electricity continue to rise,” the co-op wrote. “As already announced at the members’ meeting, we now have to save for the winter.”

The notice included a list of times of day (including in the mornings and afternoons on weekdays) that no hot water would be available in their buildings. On Saturdays, tenants will only be able to take a warm shower in the late afternoon, the co-op said.

It also announced that heating would be switched off entirely until September.

Within hours, the post was being widely shared on social media channels, with one user describing it as “fathomless cheek” and another describing it as “crazy”. 

Speaking to the Funke Media Group on Wednesday, Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) slammed the decision to manipulate the hot water supply as unlawful.

“Simply turning off the hot water temporarily is illegal,” she said. 

The decision to limit tenants’ access to hot showers and heating also drew consternation from ministers in the Saxony state government and from tenants’ rights associations.

The Germans Tenants’ Association pointed out that issues with the hot water would entitle the tenants to a rent reduction.

Since July 1st, just under half of Dippoldiswalde’s 600 apartments have been affected by the new rules. These are the 300 flats that are heated primarily with gas, WDR reported. 

READ ALSO: 

Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) at an SPD event

Housing Minister Klara Geywitz (SPD) at an SPD event in Berlin.

‘Life is expensive’

The security of Germany’s gas supply has been a growing issue in recent months as the country scrambles to save enough energy to tide it through winter.

Despite the efforts of the Economy Ministry to rapidly diversify the energy supply, Europe’s largest economy still receives around a third of its gas from Russia, which the government fears will put the country in a weak position when the cooler months roll around. 

President Vladimir Putin has already reduced or cut off the gas supply to several EU nations in retaliation for its sanctions over the Ukraine war. 

In Germany, gas deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline have been docked by 60 percent. 

Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has launched a campaign to encourage people to save energy voluntarily, for example by taking fewer showers in summer. 

The German Network Agency has also called for legal minimum temperatures for tenants to be reduced in light of the current crisis. 

READ ALSO:

Defending the plans to restrict hot water in the Saxony properties, Dippoldiswalde housing co-op board member Falk Kühn-Meisegeier said the move was to ward off the price hikes for next year. 

“It’s not a matter of bullying the tenants, but rather of adjusting to what we might otherwise not be able to pay next year,” Kühn-Meisegeier told WDR. “We want tenants to get through this crisis well. Life is expensive enough as it is.”

The co-op says it also wants to “generate electricity on our roofs” and pass it on to the members without a levy or charge.

“That would be a real relief,” the housing association said. “No one in Berlin or at the ‘E.on’s of this world’ wants that”.

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