It was pure coincidence! An 80-year-old patient whom I had been taking care of for many years in Dinslaken, asked me in the spring of 1994 whether her state of health was good enough to travel to her home town Rostov-on-Don in Russia. 

Of course, I was ready to help her. At the same time, I remembered the history of Leprosy in Caucasus. I wondered if my patient could help me to get information about leprosy people in the Caucasus. So I asked her to find some information about leprosy in Rostov am Don.

Of course, I was willing to minimize all health problems and at the same time I remembered the history of leprosy in the Caucasus. I wondered if this patient could help me with my search of leprosy people in the Caucasus. I therefore asked her to gather information concerning leprosy in Rostov-on-Don. 

I waited for her return with anticipation and was hoping that she could help me. Indeed, all my expectations were exceeded when upon her return she handed me a letter from an unknown doctor reporting about the situation of leprosy people in the Caucasus. The letter also contained three addresses of leprosy centres. Letters and Telephone conversations followed – and I was able to plan the trip to the leprosy patients in the Caucasus.

In July 1995 my husband and I set off to Rostov-on Don with Lufthansa. We carried a large freight with us – containing also specific and general medicine which had been generously donated by the German Leprosy and TB Relief Association Würzburg for the treatment of leprosy patients in the Caucasus.

Our colleague there, Mrs. Swietlana Tkatschenko, gave us a warm welcome at the airport and took us to the leprosy out-clinic The patients were willing to be examined by us and spoke about their illness.
They were hoping for relief from the treatment of the new medicine.
Mrs. Tkatschenko as well as her staff created a very confident atmosphere and I had the impression that we had known each other for a long time.

However, considerable problems were caused by the customs in Rostov-on-Don as we were not allowed to take delivery of the goods we had brought from Germany. According to the customs, some official seals were missing from different authorities and several forms had to be filled in and handed in. Furthermore, we were requested to make a list of all the medicine brought into the country in Cyrillic. Every day, we spent hours at the customs in order to deal with these formalities. After 7 days (I only had a 14-day holiday), I was running out of patience and we gave the customs director an ultimatum: Either he would clear the freight for us or we would organise a bus and take the mutilated leprosy patients to his office, asking them to help themselves to the medicine, items and clothes that we had brought exclusively for them. “You can’t be serious”, was his reaction and on the same day, we could take delivery of the complete freight. I was extremely relieved when eventually these problems were solved. We distributed the goods among the three leprosy centres. The leprosy out-clinic in Rostov, the Leprosarium Terski, which is located at the Chechen border, and the Leprosarium Abinski by the Black Sea.


2009

Dr. Tkatschenko – who is highly appreciated by leprosy patients - is still dealing with out-clinic patients. She is in contact with all leprologists of the former USSR and takes actively part in all leprosy conferences.