Belarusian doctor in Africa: “When she got her first salary, she cried”
Obstetrician-gynecologist from Brest tells about how African women give birth and what made her move to another hemisphere of the planet – to Angola.
Belaruska in Africa is called an angel. Photo: from the heroine’s archive.
“I wanted to be a movie star.” I went to the artistic and theatrical school in Minsk, but at the exams I realized that it was not mine. I can not be so reconstructed, transformed from one person to another. So I entered a medical school, then graduated from the medical university, and at 45 I went back to study in clinical residency in order to get the highest category. Elena Viktorovich, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Brest, and really would have looked good in the movies – a smiling blonde with shining blue eyes, a very beautiful woman. In Belarus, she for 20 years of work has gone from a rural doctor to a district obstetrician-gynecologist.
Angola is famous for its diamond deposits.
– I believe that there is no one more beautiful than a pregnant woman in the world. It now conducts all sorts of schools for moms. And when I started, women had no idea how to give birth. No one told how to breathe, how to behave, how to relax. And in these torments you get such a beautiful explosion of emotions – a child is born. A woman immediately comes to life when she hears the first cry – this is a new life, a miracle! And I put my hand to it! And when the child does not breathe, you start resuscitating. And then he inhaled, breathed, and you know that this is your merit, you helped in time, and he was alive …
However, after 20 years of medical practice in Belarusian medical institutions, the doctor realized that you will not be full of one enthusiasm. I wanted that the love of work was appropriately rewarded.
– I had three jobs: in the maternity hospital in Brest, in the railway hospital and in the AIDS Prevention Center – I was receiving and doing ultrasound. I then bought an apartment at a huge interest, and so it turned out that I had to pay 500 dollars a month – all my earnings. The oldest daughter graduated from the university, and the younger one had to learn. With her husband in divorce. I also need to make repairs. The material issue has risen very sharply, – the doctor recalls.
Elena Viktorovich became interested in working abroad. At first, she said, she was just curious to know how to treat in other countries. And then I realized that this was a chance to save my family from financial collapse. Friends recommended that they go to Angola, they said doctors from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are already working there. A Russian firm is engaged in the employment of doctors.
The vigorous doctor ventured: contacted this firm and six months after she found out about this possibility, she went to Africa. For seven years – since 2009 – the doctor works in the clinic of the mining company Katoka. This enterprise is one of the world leaders in the production of diamonds. It is located one thousand kilometers from Luanda, the capital of Angola.
At first, everyone wanted to be photographed for memory with the doctor-angel. Photo: from personal archive.
– Expectations from moving to another side of the world were justified?
– I arrived in Angola on December 1, and on the 25th I received a December salary. I have not done anything yet: in the daytime I went to study, at night I learned Portuguese. I was given three months to study the language and confirm the diploma. In Brest, everything that I earned, I gave on credit. Here I was paid a clean salary of a doctor – and he was five times more than my Belarusian salary in three jobs. I began to consider: a year of work in Angola – this is 10 years of work at home, two years – 20 years … I cried so much! I was so hurt for my homeland!
With colleagues, Elena had a warm relationship. Photo: from the personal archive of the heroine.
– Are Belarusian pregnant women different from Angolan? How to give birth in Africa?
– Births rarely take place in the clinic, 80% of cases are attended by birth at home. They are cheaper to call a doctor than pay for a clinic. They give birth on their own, men have not since the beginning of the contractions.
They are leaving behind the village, in the savanna – there are none! And only when they hear singing and dancing come. Hence, a child was born. And they have this: the sun should not go twice over the woman who is in labor. If a day passes and a woman does not give birth, they call the doctor. So I go to the emergency and disaster, – laughs the doctor.
– A woman asks not to touch the child, if I just attend during childbirth.
She herself bandages, bites the umbilical cord, takes the baby, puts it on her stomach … “This is my child, my bacteria – do not touch it.” Then she cleaned everything behind her, got on her knees, kissed my feet and left-so they accepted. I always think: after all, just like our great-grandmothers gave birth! And no one loses consciousness, does not cry from pain. Well, yes, they groan like all women, but there is no hysterics, like in our maternity hospitals.
Local people like white very much.
Russian. Photo: from personal archive.
And they also have it: if a woman becomes pregnant, she and her husband do not live a sexual life, this is forbidden both by religion and by customs. A man builds a new hut next door, takes a new wife … So they live. How much women can provide, so much you take. They are Christians, but they are allowed polygamy. For many years there was a war, she took the men. Angolans know that they need to breed and fill the population.
– How is medicine developed there?
– I work in a clinic that caters only to the families of Katoka employees. It has the most modern equipment, medicines very different – European, Brazilian. In Luanda there are clinics from the red cross, but they, of course, are not so secured.
In Angola, I noticed that the simplest antibiotics are effective there! There, no one treats a simple infection for 10 to 15 days. The patient comes, you give him the maximum therapeutic dose today, tomorrow – supportive, and the day after tomorrow he is healthy. I have patients with AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis – after 16 years of the war in Angola, there are many social diseases. Only there I saw for the first time in my medical practice a direct blood transfusion. And there is no Sanctuary! No one controls them, but after surgery, no one has abscesses.
– How did they receive you in a foreign country? Have you quickly become accustomed to a different culture?
– Angolans call me an angel – I’m white, and even blonde. There’s a very respectful attitude to doctors. I’m even recognized in Luanda. I come to the bank, and they: “Dotore, dotore!” (“Doctor, Doctor.” – Ed.).
What was surprising – there is nothing postponed for future use. Sunsets, like ours, do not do in Angola. I wanted to – went to the savannah, collected fruits, ate and forgot. Tomorrow we’ll go again. Maybe we’ll walk a kilometer further, but walking is good for health. They positively think!
The capital of Angola Luanda is on the Atlantic coast. Photo: from personal archive.
I also liked how they treated the death of their loved ones. According to the Angolan law, 8 days of leave are given only so that a person gets out of stress, does not cry at work, but smiles and does his job.
In Angola, it’s not just sunny, there are sunny people. They always smile! I learned this from them. There necessarily it is necessary to arrange hugs – two times to incline cheeks to each other. Everyone does that, familiar and unfamiliar. For the day everyone greets three times. “Bonie” means to say good morning, “bua tarde” – a good day, “boon it” – good night. It’s impossible not to smile when you say hello for the third time in a day!
In Africa, Elena has a new hobby – to photograph exotic flowers. Photo: from personal archive.
– Do not you miss the house?
“I come home a few times a year.” I’ve seen everyone – and I want to go back! Then all the unfortunate, crying, looking at the ground, everything gray … There I have a different life!
Elena teases daughters with photos of fresh fruits – in Angola they are abundant all year round. Photo: from personal archive.
A lot of time appeared for self-education – I now have access to Portuguese sites and Brazilian medicine. I’ve learned so much! I run, I go to the gym, I participate in all competitions in the clinic. Daughters send photos every day or show in skype how I live. They laugh that I dance, I sing, and sometimes they say, they say, show us the sun, we have bad weather. I live there so full of life – I do not have enough time in a day! If there is a heaven on earth, then he is there, in Africa.
In her spare time, Elena is actively involved in sports. Photo: from personal archive.
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