Reflecting on memories of Dr.Kaanavi (Former health professional of the medical corps in LTT)

The entire world was captivated by the story of the child “Aya,” who miraculously survived alone in the Turkey-Syria earthquake. This child, along with the hospital environment where I currently work, brought back memories of an Eelamtamil child named Rosani, who lost her parents and was adopted by us 24 years ago. Unfortunately, there is little mention of the thousands of Eelamtamil children who are surviving as victims of genocide.

The unceasing waves began moving towards Yaalppanam to reclaim the areas taken by the Sri Lankan army. We established our temporary surgery center, a makeshift hospital, in a house in the Sivanagar-Kilinochchi area. Poonakari sea area was chosen for its proximity to facilitate the rapid transfer of the injured to the rear field. The makeshift hospital, typically occupied by wounded militants, now echoed with the cries of pain from civilians injured in the army shelling.

Following initial emergency treatment, a child named Rosani was brought to our makeshift hospital in Sivanagar by field medical personnel, with injuries to her hand and stomach. At just two-and-a-half years old, our medical team successfully performed the necessary abdominal and arm surgeries. The time and care spent with her afterward are indescribable. As we moved her to the intensive care unit, typically occupied by wounded freedom fighters (LTT), it was now filled with injured children, elderly, and women.

Not only Rosani but also Bavisan, Namitha, Arvin, Kamsika, and other children were seriously injured, either their mother or father by their side. However, for Rosani, we were everything (the Medical Department of the LTT). Throughout the night, she would softly murmur, “Mother, mother, water, water,” her lips repeating these words incessantly. Her frail body lacked the strength to ask for anything else, her right arm being bandaged while her left arm received injections. Each time she called out “Mother,” our hearts melted.

We contemplated what the morning would bring and how we would manage. Wishing that the sunrise would never come, the dim light revealed our unfamiliar faces to her in the morning. Rosani, as expected, woke up and asked for her mother. Not only were our faces unfamiliar, but our uniforms were also new to her, as she had been born and raised in a Sri Lankan military-controlled area.

Since our hospital was temporary, lacking major building facilities, we had set up a tin shed as an ICU. Despite being in a residential area, many people had been displaced due to attacks by the Sri Lankan Army, with only a few families remaining nearby.

We didn’t have any clothes for Rosani to change into, so we went up and down to some houses in the village to find her a frock. There were no shops nearby; the nearest one was in (S)kandapuram, which was far away and not accessible due to the continuous arrival of injured individuals. I had to work day and night without sleep as the injured kept coming. Despite the pain from my wound, I tried to iron the shirt I found and put it on her. Tears flowed from her beautiful eyes.

“I don’t want this frock. Go to my store and get a patterned frock,” she said. The name of the store is Mangala Fancy Store, Chavaka(r)cheri. “I want a layered frock, red color is the best.” Later, we discovered that Rosani was the daughter of a prominent businessman in Chavaga(r)cheri, who owned two saree shops.but they were living in a Sri Lankan army-controlled area. After the army left chavaka(r)cheri, they blocked access to Yaalppanam city and launched artillery attacks on settlements. Rosani was one of the injured.

Rosani’s mother, father, and elder sister died in the shell attack on their house, but she was rescued from the rubble by our rescue team. The injured people were brought to Vanni by sea by the LTT. Rosani refused everything we offered her. Even if we gave her milk in a bottle, she would throw it away, asking for her favourite bottle. Thinking about the condition of this child, my heart pounded. How poor she was..! What could we say or do to comfort her..?!

But it brings joy that she has survived and risen again with our help. Dr. Sathanandan quickly acquired all the things she needed within a few days. He wasn’t alone; many others also bought whatever she asked for whenever they went out, though her eyes betrayed a hint of sorrow, a dark streak amidst the rainbow, revealing her loss. After all the other patients were transferred to Vavuniya for further treatment and their relatives…

Rosani became the darling of the medical team, under our care and protection. Even as the days passed, she would cry out at night, calling for her mother, father, and sister. We couldn’t answer. It’s the silent, solemn hours of the night when our hearts begin to soften.

On a day when her condition improved and her health began to change…We were elated to receive news from Bri. Tamilselvan Anna, the head of the political wing of Tamileelam. It was the news that Rosani’s maternal uncle had contacted them from Switzerland and that Rosani would soon fly to Switzerland through the ICRC, following all legal procedures. We were relieved to hear of her safe journey to Switzerland.


Note: Dr.Kaanavi was a LTT cadre of the medical unit working in the battlefield. Based on her experiences, she has also written a book called “Karunai Nathi” (The River of Mercy)


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