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Ukrainian pharma executive vows to continue production 'until we win or we die'

Two health care workers confer in a field hospital set up by a U.S. disaster relief organization in an underground parking lot at a shopping mall near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv last week.
Yuriy Dyachyshyn
/
AFP via Getty Images
Two health care workers confer in a field hospital set up by a U.S. disaster relief organization in an underground parking lot at a shopping mall near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv last week.

Updated March 24, 2022 at 2:07 PM ET

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has driven hospitals — and medical personnel — to the point of despair. Supplies are running low, while getting care to the sick and wounded is a logistical nightmare.

Dmytro Shymkiv is the executive chairman of Ukraine's biggest pharmaceutical company, Darnitsa. At the company's main factory in Kyiv, about 300 of his employees are working in darkness — covering the windows with blankets for protection — despite the ongoing shelling to produce the much-needed supplies, and coordinate their distribution across the country.

"We are currently operating 24/7 ... and maintain the quality of the production to the highest standards of the pharmaceutical company, so it's very challenging and the shelling continues," he told NPR.

Speaking with Morning Edition's A Martínez, Shymkiv said the most pressing need is for intensive care drugs like bandages, infusions, injections, anti-inflammatory drugs and painkillers.

His company has also been distributing medicine that can treat lung damage as fears mount of a possible Russian chemical attack. It's a complicated process: Many of these drugs have to be stored and transported in specific, temperature-controlled conditions, and there is only a limited supply of appropriately outfitted trucks.

"It's a very challenging environment to ensure delivery," said Shymkiv, who explained that the supplies are being delivered by a pool of trucks and "fearless" drivers, most of whom are volunteers or military.

"The heroism of some of the folks is just unbelievable. It's beyond [the] imagination," he added. "They are going without the guns. They've been shelled in multiple circumstances and they've been able to actually deliver the drugs to the very needed hospitals because there are women, kids, elderly people, injured people."

With the sound of shelling and gunfights now a constant, Shymkiv spoke of the "incomparable" stress for his employees, their families and ordinary citizens across the capital city and the country as a whole.

When air sirens go off, Shymkiv hunkers down — with some 150 employees and their families, including 40 kids as young as 2 — in a bomb shelter beneath Darnitsa's main factory.

He vows to keep working, even under the challenging circumstances, for "as long as it's needed for my country."

"We are going to stand until we win or we die," Shymkiv said.


This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Olivia Hampton