A total of 12 Ukrainian researchers are stuck at Vernadsky research base in Antarctica, unable to return and under severe stress even as their homeland is facing Russian invasion, the media reported.
Vernadsky Station is Ukraine’s only research base in Antarctica and home to 12 scientists, engineers, and support staff who were nearing the end of a 13-month-long expedition when Russia invaded their country, Wired.co.uk reported.
“It’s really agonising to be here unable to fight the occupation of my homeland,” Andrii Khytryi, an anesthesiologist and emergency medicine physician from Poltava in central Ukraine, was quoted as saying.
Khytryi is the expedition’s doctor, and his main task is to monitor the physiological and mental condition of the other team members.
Although the polar residents are mostly “holding up” their health, at times the pressure of being unable to help their loved ones and country becomes difficult to contain, he said.
“For some, it is close to unbearable. Sometimes the stress is so strong that I need to assist my colleagues with drugs to normalise the blood pressure or insomnia.”
Khytryi is desperate to get back to Ukraine and help defend his country.
“I believe that I would have been much more useful treating the wounded in an operating room or emergency room, or in the field,” he said.
But the doctor who was due to replace him as part of the next expedition is now fighting in Ukraine. It looks like Khytryi may have to spend another year in Antarctica, the report said.
“I feel that it is my duty to stay here if there is no one to swap with me,” he said.
The crew spends most of their time either working, reading the news or keeping in touch with their loved ones back home.
“We communicate via the internet. They are safe. They stay in shelters, sometimes they are at home,” Anton, a biologist from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was quoted as saying.
The Vernadsky station, earlier known as Faraday station, was sold to the Ukrainian government for a pound, by the British government in 1996, the report said.
This came after Russia declared itself the sole owner of the former Soviet Union’s five research stations in Antarctica and denied Ukraine’s request to take over operation of one of the bases.
It’s still not clear when the scientists and support staff at Verdansky station will be able to return to Ukraine, the report said.
Some researchers who were due to go on upcoming expeditions are trapped in Ukrainian cities under Russian bombardment.
“Some of the team is locked in Kyiv and some of the team is locked in Kharkiv,” a press officer at Ukraine’s National Antarctic Scientific Center was quoted as saying.