ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Monday, June 13 marks 110 days since Russia invaded Ukraine and as the war rages on between the two nations, one local nurse is stepping up to help.
Lisa Prytula recently returned back to work at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg after spending three weeks in Poland where she volunteered as a nurse in a refugee medical clinic and at an orphanage.
“People were really sick. The people coming to the transit center had been on very long journeys. Many of them spent weeks hiding in basements or in other locations before they even got to Poland,” she explained.
Prytula, volunteering alongside other medical professionals from around the globe, worked inside a massive transit center turned medical mend-all. She said what surprised her most was how relatively quiet it was inside the massive building.
“When you have thousands of people under one roof and a massive convention center it’s loud, but it really wasn’t because they are shocked, withdrawn, anxious, weepy so the lack of noise is something that will always sit with me,” she added.
Prytula was raised in the United States, but her parents are Ukrainian immigrants, and she speaks the Ukranian language fluently.
“My grandparents escaped WWII just as Ukrainian refugees are doing now and thanks to their bravery, I’m here today,” she said.
Bravery is also what she admired most from the Ukrainian refugees she met. She spoke with many people who lost family members, their homes, and haven’t heard from loved ones in weeks.
“We can patch up wounds, give medications but the psychological trauma of losing your sister, not hearing from your husband, losing your home, and everything you’ve worked hard for, I don’t know how a person overcomes that,” she elaborated.
Prytula is already planning her next trip back to Poland. She hopes to leave in a few weeks. She’s also raised more than $20,000 for medical supplies and humanitarian relief. Much of that money came from her colleagues at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete.
“I am exceptionally grateful and this felt like it was the least I could do to try to give back in some way,” she added.
Prytula told ABC Action News reporter Sarah Hollenbeck that nursing is loving people when they’re at their weakest, and Ukrainians need all the love they can get.