I assumed that we would not encounter major problems in the Ukraine since it is a central European country. However, contact with leprologists turned out to be extremely difficult. Letters that I had sent to the head leprologist remained unanswered. The Ministry of Health only reluctantly gave us the information we requested insistently.

Eventually, I could fly to Odessa, as always I was accompanied by my husband. A delegation of the Leprosarium was expecting us at the airport, holding the signboard “Drabik Germany”. Thus, we found our contact persons immediately. After welcoming us and introducing ourselves to each other, they asked us, “How did you find out about the location of the leprosy people? We have tried to keep it as secret as possible!”
Our conversation was very open and friendly and after only one hour, we were already on first-name terms. We took every opportunity to get to know each other and to work together for leprosy people in the future.

Ausladen von Hilfsgütern
September 2017 – Taschkent, Uzbekistan

Our relief goods were being transported by plane including anti-leprosy as well as general medicine, which had been donated from the German Leprosy and TB Relief Association. We could not take delivery of the freight immediately since the customs regulations caused considerable problems. We had to fill in several form and ask for administrative permissions as well as custom’s seals. Furthermore, I had to write out a list of the medicaments in Cyrillic. Eventually, we were allowed to store the freight in a room within the leprosarium which was then sealed by a customs officer. A customs commission would clear the goods some weeks later.
There were no problems within the Leprosarium. The staff was friendly and helpful. The leprosy patients were communicative and even allowed us to take photos. The lived in small houses which were well equipped and well-kept. There is a garden around each house and blooming flowers embellish the sight of the leprosarium. On our ward-round with the head physician we knocked on each door. Some patients walked up to us with a smile on their face.

I particularly remember a couple who both suffered from leprosy. When I entered their flat they addressed me by my name. I was very surprised since this was the first time I had been to the Ukraine and had not had any contact with leprosy people in this country. Nevertheless, this was no hallucination; I clearly heard them say “Good morning, Romana”.
The patients noticed my amazement. “I immediately knew that it was you”, he said, “We, that is the leprosy patients of countries from the former USSR regularly exchange correspondence with each other. And this is how we know that a Romana from Germany travels from one leprosarium to another to help and supply patients with the goods needed. We are very happy that you have finally come to our place.”

All in all, I spent one week in the Ukraine, which was sufficient to get to know the leprosy patients, their living conditions but also to listen to their questions and worries. At the time of our visit there were 44 patients in the leprosarium.

We invited one physician of the leprosarium to Germany so as to intensify the contact. He also went to the German Leprosy and TB Relief Association in Würzburg (DAHW) because this connection was important for the mutual leprosy work.

2004

Our second visit to the leprosy people in Kutschurgan, Ukraine, took place in 2004. A new patient suffering from Type LL (multi-bacteria form of leprosy) was detected and mutual examinations with medical doctors from the leprosarium took place.

Der neue Patient
The new patient

 The patient’s treatment with MDT as well as the rehabilitation were discussed. Further training of Dr. Rybak, a leprologist, was suggested and approved by the head physician Dr. Naumov.

 

2009

Meanwhile, Dr. Juri Rybak has become our contact person of the leprosarium Kutschurgan and is also assistant head physician. Since he is an eye-specialist he particularly deals with the visual impairment of leprosy patients, a complication which unfortunately arises very often. In addition to training in astrakhan in 2005, Dr. Rybak was nominated the representative of his country for the Leprosy World Congress in Hyderabad, India in 2008. In his presentation he explained the situation of leprosy in his country.

Vorbereitung auf den Vortrag
Preparing a lecture
 

 

2012

July 2012, Kutshurgan, Ukraine
Members of the WHO visited the Leprosarium Kutshurgan. The patients’ situation was discussed thoroughly by (among others) Dr. Sassakawa (WHO) and Dr. Naumov, Chief Physician of the Leprosy Centre.
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Besprechung im Leprosorium

Leprosy Journey June/July 2012