The faces of the delegation relax, the Ukrainians smile and marvel as they enter the main building of the paraplegic center in Nottwil LU. “Everything, absolutely everything is right here,” says Serhii Bolchuk (46), head of the AGAPE rehabilitation clinic in Lutsk in north-western Ukraine. The delegation is accompanied by Marion Koch (59), the mother of the most famous quadriplegic in German-speaking Europe, Samuel Koch (35). She supports the team with her aid organization in transporting and accommodating refugees with spinal cord injuries.
Marion Koch knows Nottwil very well. She spent twelve months here with her son after he was a contestant on “Wetten dass..?” Had a serious accident on live television in 2010 and has been paralyzed from the neck down ever since. She remembers exactly: “We experienced the most terrible time, but at the same time we enjoyed the best therapy in the world,” she says to Blick. Soon after the accident, she and her son founded the aid organization “Samuel Koch and Friends”. The association supports people who help other people in need.
Helped 1000 people escape
Serhii Bolchuk met Koch eight years ago. His wife Nataliya (48) is, like her son Samuel, tetraplegic and paralyzed from the neck down. “When I found out that people with disabilities in Ukraine need help, we got started right away,” says Koch to Blick. In the meantime, they have evacuated eleven groups from the war zone, seven to Germany, three to Holland and one to Küsnacht ZH in Switzerland. They transported more than 500 people with disabilities and their families and placed them abroad, and arranged and organized the escape for another 500.
In the paraplegic center, the delegation examines a patient’s room, where the injured usually spend several months. The Ukrainians measure the pool, admiring the top equipment and the view of Lake Sempach. “You can even open the sliding window, even if you can’t move your hands anymore,” says Serhii Bolchuk. He writes everything down, takes photos with his cell phone. Nataliya Bolchuk, who like her husband works in the clinic management, asks if discarded material and wheelchairs can be bought cheaply.
expansion after the war
«After the war we want to expand our center in Lutsk. In Ukraine we have far too few therapy places for people with severe back injuries,” says Serhii Bolchuk. Nottwil is the best role model. “The holistic concept of how people are accompanied back to life here after an accident is unique.”
But it will be a while before the plans can be implemented. The Bolchuk family also had to flee. «Right at the beginning of the war, a rocket fell ten kilometers away at the military airport. The blast was incredible,” says Bolchuk. And further: “We evacuated the patients to the vegetable cellar. We don’t have shelters. The situation was very difficult.”
Nevertheless, the Ukrainians are looking to the future with a lot of hope. “We want to go back to our country and rebuild everything,” says Serhii Bolchuk. We use the time abroad to prepare well for our return.”