Sergey Ivanov from Bendery: Maternity hospital was on the firing line

06/19/20 12:10

Sergey Ivanov from Bendery: Maternity hospital was on the firing line

About how several men took care of expectant mothers when gunfights raged on the streets in June 1992

In 1992, the Bendery Maternity Hospital was located on Dzerzhinsky Street just a few blocks from the Moldovan Police Building. In the evening of June 19, 1992, Sergey Ivanov went to visit his pregnant wife. He will spend the next three days in the building of the hospital, which has been in the middle of the war in Bendery. Within a few hours, Moldovan armored vehicles entered the town, while the base of aggression was located not far from the maternity hospital. Sergey Ivanov recalls that all those people have felt like being kept hostage by the war.

“June 19, having bought a large package of ripe cherries, I hurried to the Bendery Maternity Hospital on my old moped. My wife was about to give birth. Driving past the printing house, I did not know that the war would start in 10 minutes.

Before I was able to see my wife, I was waiting outside when suddenly there was heavy fire from assault rifles and machine guns. There were tall poplars outside the hospital. The fired branches were crushing down, so that the whole yard was littered with them. No one knew what was going on. An hour or two had passed, yet the fire intensified. Armored vehicles approached from different directions, and battles began at the very windows of the hospital. A few rounds landed on a small laundry building on the territory of the hospital, and there was just one wall left of it. The medical staff took the expectant mothers and new mothers with babies to the bomb shelter, which was in the basement. There were only an elderly anesthetist, several nurses and midwives of the employees in the hospital. There I met my work colleague Sasha by chance. He had a son just a day or two before the war. We went to the same school where we trained to be welders, worked at the BOERZ plant together in one team at neighboring welding stations. An elderly doctor led the evacuation, yet there were only the two of us under his command. After caesarean section, several puerperants had to be taken down from the second floor on a stretcher. There were more than 50 patients in the maternity hospital, most of them were with babies, while others were bedridden.

Despite the heavy fire all around, Sasha and I carried beds, mattresses, pillows and various medical equipment till 5 in the morning. The phone in the maternity hospital was constantly ringing, but one call turned out to be a major blow for everyone. Someone of the neighbors called, saying that the husband of one of the employees died. As soon as it got dark, he tried to get into the hospital, but was shot dead at the crossroads. When his wife found out about it, she started to cry so loud that fear seized everyone who was in the bomb shelter. Everyone was crying.

The first day passed. From the window of the second floor I saw what was going on around. I saw dead people lying around in the street, and two snipers sitting on the roof of the school adjacent to the hospital. Having broken the gates with armor, there were two APCs and one armored personnel carrier with engines started in the school yard. The tricolors on them showed me that those were definitely not friends of our town.

The battles in the city were only gaining momentum, when Sasha and I went down to the shelter to somehow reassure the women. Everyone was in a state of great stress, only the children slept. So the second night passed. Oddly enough, the less shots were heard, the more alarming it was to be kept hostage.

People were very hungry on the second day, but there were no more products in the kitchen. The provisions could be found in the basement of the warehouse, it was five meters from the laundry room and only twenty meters from the special police service APC. Though, it was only part of trouble, since the alarm was on in the warehouse and it was locked safely. With the permission of the medical staff, Sasha and I decided to pick the lock. Since there were no keys to the warehouse, we opened a window from the end of the building and went down through it when it got dark. I went down to the basement and tore off the wires from the "buzzer" of the alarm using pliers. Forcing the door was impossible, since it was iron-plated and there was a large iron bar on the entire door. The tools which I found in my moped helped me. There I found a piece of broken web from a hacksaw. Wrapping the web with a rag, I started to slowly cut the lock, which took more than two hours. Gunfire noise drowned out scratching noise. I cut when they were shooting, and when they weren`t, I waited. Those two hours were the longest, filled with fear that the hacksaw blade would break or that the special police service  men would hear and shoot me. Still, I was able to cut through the lock and open the  warehouse. There I found many boxes of cookies, three-liter jars of juice, butter in large twenty-kilogram boxes.

There was little time left before the morning, and we transferred everything that could be eaten dry to the building of the hospital and then to our shelter. Having fed the hunger a little, people started to feel better, and mothers were able to breastfeed their children. Somehow we managed to bolt the bomb shelter door from the inside, though we had no strength at all.

By the end of the second day, the fighting was still ongoing.  There was emergency exit at the side of Moskovskaya Street at the maternity hospital, and I decided to find escape routes.  There was a building neaby behind the walls of which it was possible to somehow get out of bullets.  I went to the gate, but it was closed.  I realized that I would not be able to handle it without a scrap, but that was the only way everyone could go towards Lenin Street.  On the opposite side of the road I noticed a man in a paratrooper uniform - a major with a weapon.  When he saw me, he ran across the road quickly, came over to me and asked who I was and what I was doing there.  I  told him about our situation, about where the snipers and the special police service armoured vehicles were located.  He promised to bring the guardsmen with weapons to us and help with the protection of people.  We kept the door to the shelter closed and only opened  it after a conditional knock.  So I showed the major how he should knock and said goodbye to him.

The third tough night came, yet it passed more or less without the noise of heavy artillery, Alazani fuse and mortar shells.  On the third day at 11-12 o'clock it got relatively quiet, and from the second floor of the building I was able to see a funeral red tractor with a carbody which the dead were loaded in.  The carbody was already full of them, the bodies lay in two rows.  By the evening of the third day, the guard reconnaissance came to our aid, occupied the maternity hospital and took it under control.  The next day, there was relative calm, and, picking the lock on the gate, we were able to get out of bullets.

Today is June 19th. It breaks my heart to remember everything we've been through.  I wrote this for the sake of a younger generation, so that they would know how Pridnestrovie gained its freedom and independence."




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