Three days after the Russian army invaded her country, Marina found out she was pregnant. Now 30, she and her husband are stocking up on potassium iodide tablets in case of a radiation emergency from the nearby Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.
“We were going to have a baby, but we didn’t know if we would be happy.
“My husband said: ‘We should be really happy. She spoke at an obstetrics clinic in the remote city of Zaporizhia.
In recent weeks, heavy artillery shelling has been raging around Europe’s largest Russian-controlled factory, with both countries accusing the other of being behind it.
She told AFP that this is one of the concerns of mothers and pregnant women at the clinic, and expressed their hopes and anxieties about the future.
– “Try not to think about it” –
Valentina, whose daughter Tatiana is just three days old, said she was “terrified” of what was to come.
“Of course, I try not to think I’m in the normal state of mind to produce milk,” said the 25-year-old.
But Anna, a 23-year-old fitness club manager, said she believes the dangers from nuclear power plants are just “rumours.”
“I don’t think anything will happen. I think everything will be fine,” said Anna, who gave birth to her son Maxim four days ago.
Doctors say the hospital is located within a 50-kilometer (31-mile) potential radiation zone and is prepared in case of an accident.
“We have received all the necessary government recommendations and have received radiation sickness medication,” said Larysa Gusakova, 59, a neonatologist at the clinic.
“I hope common sense wins,” said Natalia Solovyova, 30, another doctor and gynecologist.
Russia “should remember what happened at Chernobyl and how bad it was,” she said, referring to the 1986 nuclear disaster elsewhere in Soviet Ukraine.
～Sandbags to protect newborns～
About five children are born every day at this hospital, both from local women and internally displaced people who have been forced to flee areas controlled by Russia.
After the war began, the hospital set up a shelter in the basement containing a room with a bed for the mother and a cot for the newborn.
Staff have also increased food and water supplies to last at least seven days, and have set up delivery chairs in the basement that do not yet need to be used.
There is also a newborn room on the first floor, with rows of sandbags blocking the windows during artillery fire.
“At first it was very difficult. Sometimes we carried women[to the shelter]right after giving birth,” Gusakova said.
– ‘We hope for the best’ –
War is part of life in a hospital.
Gusakova said one of the newborns was named Javelina in honor of the US-made Javelin hand-held anti-tank missile that the Ukrainian military successfully used against Russian forces.
Valentina, 25, an elementary school teacher whose daughter Tatiana is three days old, said she began to worry about air raid sirens for the first time since her daughter was born.
“Sirens never frightened us the way they do now…certain worries emerge after the birth of a child,” Valentyna said.
Both staff and patients are concerned about rumors on Russian social media that the Ukrainian military is using the facility.
They showed AFP around the building to show that this was not true and feared their hospital would become a target.
Despite all the tension, Marina, an assistant to the director of the local gas company, said her family remains hopeful.
“My husband and I do our best to stay here, give birth in peace, and live without having to go anywhere.”