Visiting researcher Valeria Melokhina
Imagine being forced to leave your home because masked men with guns may kill you for not supporting them. Ukrainian Valeria Melokhina, MD, PhD, experienced this in 2014.
At the risk of her life, rheumatologist Valeria Melokhina fled her hometown in Donetsk.
She, her husband Maksym, and their young son Andrij had to flee Donetsk with Valeria’s mother and grandmother. The separatists who took control of the area were supported by Russia, a regime that uses the extermination of political opposition as a means of control.
“Speaking out against the Russians would mean death or punishment. Many healthcare workers have been killed, captured, or punished in other ways, so we had to leave our hometown,» Valeria says. The family moved to Kyiv, where Valeria got a job as a rheumatologist and Maksym as a researcher and ENT doctor. On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine.
Valeria contacted REMEDY after the announcement of the possibility of a guest researcher position. In October 2022, she came to Oslo and got a work permit three months later. She was able to start as a guest researcher at REMEDY in January. Now, a publication based on the Arctic trial is on the horizon. She has analysed data related to patients in remission with subclinical inflammation.
She has a work contract with REMEDY until June and her husband until August at RH. «At the REMEDY centre, I am learning so much about how high-quality research works. The research community has an excellent professional level, and colleagues are dedicated and enthusiastic. It is an honor to work here,» she says humbly. She also speaks highly of Oslo. Eleven-year-old Andrij loves everything about Norway. In addition to learning Norwegian, he also receives online education from Ukraine.
Back home in Kyiv, the family’s experiences in Oslo contrast starkly with their daily lives, where one drone attack follows another. «I am very worried about my mother and grandmother, who are still in Kyiv,» she says. The alarm goes off every night, sometimes two or three times. It is difficult for the elderly and sick to go to cold bomb rooms at night, so they often skip it simply because they cannot cope. I talk to them every day, and it’s hard to be so far away, especially when they are facing such challenges. Leaving one’s homeland is difficult, even though it is fantastic to be safe in Norway. She expresses eternal gratitude for all the help and support she and her family have received in Norway.
According to human rights groups, there have been more than 700 attacks on hospitals, healthcare workers, and other medical infrastructure in Ukraine since the invasion began. «We have several acquaintances who have been injured or killed. Our good friend, surgeon and father of three, Oleksandr, was killed on the front lines, where he was trying to save lives,» says Valeria tearfully.
When discussing the occupation and invasion, Valeria is clear. Like Jens Stoltenberg and many others, she believes that this war concerns us all: «Russia has committed crimes against humanity during its more than one-year-long invasion of Ukraine. Russia is a dictatorship permeated with fear, corruption, and nepotism, with a despot at the top who constantly attacks to expand his territory and power,» she says. The Russians annexed parts of the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014, the same year they annexed Krim.
«The more the Russians bomb, the more resistance they will encounter in Ukraine. We want a real democracy with freedom of speech. That is impossible under Russia,» she says. She believes that Ukraine’s move towards becoming a NATO and EU member is one of the reasons why Russia is resorting to massive warfare. The war must be stopped, she says, because Russia is doing what it always does; trying to take neighbouring countries to gain more power. If they take Ukraine, it will not stop there; they will move on to new areas, she believes.
For example, Putin levelled Tsjetsjenia’s capital to the ground and halved the population of the capital, Grozny, in the early 1990s to be able to govern the republic. The word «ruscism» combines Russian and fascism to describe the regime, and it is now increasingly used after the invasion. The Russian opposition politician Navalny is imprisoned and one of the examples of oppression.
Valeria hopes that the whole world will contribute to ensure peace in Ukraine.
If you want to help healthcareworkers in Ukraine provide necessary medical care on the front lines, you can donate money to Hospitallers, a Ukrainian volunteer organization of healthcare workers who save lives on the front lines: Hospitallers Medical Battalion Valeria is confident that the money will reach its intended recipients. The largest Ukrainian fundraising platform created by Zelenskyy is also a good option: https://u24.gov.ua/
Bildet er gjengitt med tillatelse fra kunstneren, Rolf Groven.
 Dokumentaren «Navalny», anbefales.