My connection to Ukraine

April 13, 2022

In May 2018, Kyiv, Ukraine was the city of the UEFA Champions League final: Real Madrid vs Liverpool. My husband always dreamed of being in a stadium with his favorite team (Real Madrid), and we took a trip on a whim. We enjoyed four incredible days in the city where I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life, and Real Madrid won the game!  

Being back after 30 years brought up a lot of emotions and memories of my childhood. It also filled me with pride to see my hometown transformed into a thriving European capital, with booming commerce and a burgeoning tourism industry. The spirit of independence was in the air, a “Freedom is our religion” banner covered the 10-story facade of the city hall building. The next generation of Ukrainians were open-minded and cosmopolitan, some spoke better English than Russian. It was a different world, and I felt excited to show this town to my kids one day.  I hope I still can.

In 1989, on the brink of the collapse of the Soviet Union, my family was among tens of thousands of Soviet Jews who were finally allowed to leave. We had to give up our Soviet passports and become “stateless” political refugees with an uncertain future. When our train left Kyiv, rocket shells were not falling on the train station, we were not escaping the violence of war. We stayed together as a family; we did not have to leave our men behind at the Polish border.  

None of us could have imagined the events currently taking place in Ukraine. Images of a burning high-rise building in Kyiv just a few blocks from where I grew up. The names of small towns long forgotten have resurfaced in a horrifying new light. Irpin and Bucha, located on the outskirts of Kyiv, where I spent every summer in a sleep-away camp. For the last few decades, these names called back memories of warm summer days, campfires, and ancient pine forests filled with wild berries and butterflies. Now, these names are synonymous with war atrocities, civilian mass graves, and bombed-out ghost towns.  

We cannot change this reality, but we can contribute in a meaningful way to ease the suffering of the Ukrainian people and to help raise awareness and money for the supplies and equipment that are needed in Ukraine today.  

Our Surgical Workforce Activation Team (SWAT) is back in action to help surgical and medical colleagues who are working in extreme conditions amid the war in Ukraine. SWAT is raising funds to buy surgical and medical supplies for United Help Ukraine, a nonprofit organization focused on resupplying Ukrainian hospitals.  

Please consider donating to this cause today. Thank you for your time. 


Anna Burgansky, MD 

Chief of General Obstetrics and Gynecology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital

Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center