The Allergy Fellow From Kyiv

The Allergy Fellow From Kyiv

I returned last week from the AAAAI meeting in Phoenix. It was terrific to be able to attend live after two years of cancellations and virtual only. You don’t really know how much you miss live meetings and interacting with your allergy colleagues until they are taken away from you by a pandemic.

One of the things I greatly missed for the last two years is the Allergists for Israel gala Sunday night dinner.  It usually takes place at a site related to Jewish heritage in the convention city, and this year was no different. It was held at the Cutler Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, home of the first synagogue of Phoenix located about a mile from the meeting site.

As I was mingling around during the cocktail hour seeing allergists I had not seen for months or years, I went up to Larry DuBuske. I knew Larry’s wife Ilona was from Ukraine, and I wanted to know how she was doing. Many years ago, I lectured along with Larry and other allergists from the U.S., and Europe at the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Summer School in Kyiv and Crimea. I remember the beauty of the city. I enjoyed seeing the St. Sophia’s Cathedral and the Monastery of the Caves with its underground crypts. Going to the shores of the Black Sea in Crimea, I still have some rocks I took from the beach in my home office.

Standing next to Larry, I noticed this young man whom I had never seen before. I looked at his name tag and saw that he is from Kyiv, Ukraine. With the Russian invasion starting February 24th, right at the beginning of the Academy meeting, I was surprised to see someone from Ukraine. His name is Taras Baranovskyi. He is an allergy fellow at the National Healthcare University of Ukraine and plans to get a PhD after his fellowship. It is my understanding that he was the only Ukrainian to receive an international scholarship to attend the Academy meeting.

I introduced myself and, of course, the matter of the war in Ukraine came up. He arrived in the U.S. before it began. He had been in contact with his family in the western part of the country, and they were safe at that time. What took me by surprise was that he was returning to Ukraine after the Academy meeting. How was he going to get there, and more importantly why go back to a war zone when he had many offers to stay in the United States? Obviously, he could not fly into Ukraine. His plan was to fly to Warsaw and then get a train or a bus to the Ukrainian border and proceed from there. Why go back? He did not hesitate to tell me: to support his homeland against the Russians.

We have all seen the bravery of the people of Ukraine. The man standing in front of a Russian tank. The 13 Ukrainian border guards on Snake lsland in the Black Sea refusing to surrender and telling the Russian officers to go f— themselves. And here was Taras, leaving safety in the U.S., and returning to a war zone to do what he could for his country. What courage! It really hit me how lucky we are here in the U.S., in the allergy community.

I know all of us wish that there was more that we could do for the Ukrainian people. In my heart, I want the U.S., government to blow the Russian army and Putin to smithereens, but my brain knows that this would lead to the use of nuclear weapons and World War III.  Hopefully the economic sanctions will work and lead to the end of this atrocity.

When he was introduced at dinner to the whole group and asked to speak, he only had a few very important words. He told us to “support Ukraine.” One thing I know we are all united behind in the U.S., is our support for Ukraine.

I plan to continue to check on Taras. I asked him if he needed anything. He said, “I need nothing, but any financial support for the Ukrainian army or patients will be helpful, as well as humanitarian help and medication, so if you could organize something, I will provide any information for this.” If you are interested in helping with humanitarian/medical needs, send me an email at, and I will get the needed information from him.

In Phoenix, he told me he would like to attend the College meeting in November. I truly hope he can. Please pray for this young man and pray for Ukraine.