Kevin was a medic on the frontline

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has affected many people in the outside world. Kevin Stenberg, Jörn, chose to go and work as an ambulance paramedic. "We often went in under fire and took care of many soldiers injured by gunshots and shrapnel."

Kevin Stenberg at home in the safety of Jörn. Here he enjoys spending time with his daughter Sophia.

Kevin Stenberg at home in the safety of Jörn. Here he enjoys spending time with his daughter Sophia.

Foto: Gerth Hedberg

Jörn2023-02-27 12:10

It was on February 24, 2022 that Russia's attack on Ukraine shook everyone. Kevin Stenberg, 28, of Jörn, was moved by the invasion. Normally he works with exploration as a diamond driller, both above and underground, for Protek. When Norran meets him, he is working in the Björkdal mine. He is also involved politically in the Social Democrats in Skellefteå.

Kevin reacted when Ukrainian President Zelensky invited foreigners to fight for Ukraine.

– I was militarily trained at K4 (Norrland's Dragoon Regiment) and my idea was to go down and fight for Ukraine. When I contacted the embassy, I was connected with a Swedish military company in Ukraine. On March 25, when I was on my way down, the Russians bombed a foreign company in Yavoriv.

It was then decided not to send any soldiers down to the area.

– By then I had then managed to get two months' leave from my job and I thought ," I will go down anyway and contribute something."

Kevin Stenberg had a medical education in the UK and drove an ambulance there for three years. So he made the choice to become a paramedic in the war zone.

– I flew to Krakow and met more Swedes there. We went to Lviv and later Kiev and were connected with a non-military civilian humanitarian organization. I was there for a week to learn how to take care of people with gunshot and shrapnel injuries.

It was then decided that Kevin would join an ambulance unit.

–  I was involved in operations in both Kharkiv and Donbas. It was about evacuating wounded soldiers at the front and driving them to field hospitals. The unit was moved as the war front moved.

– 99 percent of the time there we were on ambulance standby. Then you receive an alarm and are told if there are, for example, two, three or five soldiers injured. Then we drive there, often under fire, and take care of the people.

Shrapnel that hit the ambulance that Kevin was riding in.

During one of these callouts, Kevin's ambulance was hit.

– It felt brutal when we were hit. It was in Donbas that we were shelled with artillery fire that hit the ambulance: missiles were fired and the vehicle was hit by a lot of shrapnel. We were driving quite fast on a road. I was sitting in the back and the whole ambulance suddenly lurched. The front was Bradley damaged and the ambulance was rendered unusable.

One person in the ambulance was injured.

– We paramedics are not armed, but we had a military escort on this callout. In this case he was the one who was hit in the attack; he received shrapnel injuries to his right leg and face.

There were ambulances at the front that were converted into small hospitals.

In addition to sometimes having armed military personnel in the ambulance, it was staffed with a medically skilled driver, at least one doctor and three ambulance paramedics. In the unit there were roughly 30 ambulances, but also ambulances built as small mobile hospital units.

– Two of the ambulances in our unit were donated from Sweden.

Many ambulances and mobile hospitals were fired upon in the area.

– Despite the clear cross markings on the vehicles, there was a lot of shelling aimed at medical vehicles by the Russians. We also saw a car with the word "children" written all around the sides and the roof was completely blown off by a missile.

How do you approach your tasks in such an environment?

–When I went down I was not fully aware of what I was going to encounter. But you had to focus on the fact that you have a task to complete, a patient to be taken care of. The language was also a challenge, but everyone knew what they had to do.

The units were often located in sports halls, monasteries, schools or basements. On one occasion when the facility was in Kharkiv, it was targeted by Russian missiles. Just a hundred meters from where Kevin was with his unit there were large craters and bombed-out houses.

– They fired 13 cruise missiles and the devastation was great.

The ambulances were often on the scene early after shellings outside Kharkiv.

There were also other tasks.

– We also helped civilians to be evacuated, drove children to Kiev, moved the elderly to hospitals and distributed supplies in the war zone.

Other than the shelling of the ambulance, a strong memory for Kevin is when they had to go into Bucha. The images after the Russians withdrew in early April were distributed all over the world: hundreds of people lay dead in the streets and several mass graves were found in the area.

– It was, so to speak, not cleaned when we went in there. The dead civilians were quite quickly removed but the Russians, on the other hand, were left behind longer. We were there to evacuate people.

For two months in spring 2022, Kevin was in Ukraine. Would he consider going back ?

– No. I have the family here at home and have become much more aware of the risks. We were often very close to the shelling.

You went to Ukraine even though you have a young daughter, Sophia, here at home.

– I don't regret going there. In fact it was because of my daughter that I did go. If Sweden were to be attacked, we'd hope that people would come here and help us, too.

Kevin has a lasting physical memory from Ukraine.

– On the way home I took the opportunity to get a Ukraine tattoo in Kiev.

On his forearm is now the trident, an old Slavic symbol.

Norran meets Kevin and daughter Sophia on a cold January day in Jörn.

But winter is not something that Kevin likes.

– I enjoy hunting and fishing, but above all when it's warm.

And he had a realisation when he returned to Sweden.

– When I came back, I thought "everything works, everything's so calm and everything's perfect."

Inside one of the ambulances in which Kevin worked.
Inside one of the ambulances in which Kevin worked.

Kevin Stenberg

Age: 28 years.

Lives: Jörn.

Family: Daughter Sophia, 3 years old.

Work: Works as a diamond driller at Protek.

Commitment: Elected to the municipal council for the Social Democrats in the last election. Also sits on the high school board.

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