Belfast Telegraph

Tragic migrant speaks of ordeal

By Nigel Gould
01 February 2005

The young migrant worker who had her legs amputated after suffering frostbite sleeping rough on Ulster's streets today revealed how she came here to escape poverty in Ukraine.

In her first interview Oksana Sukhanova also said that she wanted a fresh start in Northern Ireland after a divorce back home.

"My life was okay in general until I got divorced and after that I decided to start afresh," she said.

"Because the quality of life is so poor in Ukraine I found an agency who said they would provide me with a job.

"They charged me $$3,000 dollars. The minimum monthly wage in Ukraine is $$50 so that's a lot of money.

"I wanted to change my environment and make some money for myself."

The 27-year-old has been treated at Belfast City Hospital since the beginning of January after being taken initially to the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine.

She had been sleeping rough in temperatures which, with a wind chill factor, dipped to minus 10 before being taken to hospital on New Year's Day.

At that stage her feet were effectively dead. Doctors were forced to amputate.

Ms Sukhanova told the BBC's Spotlight programme, to be broadcast tonight, that she is a qualified book-keeper who has worked in a bank and as a secretary.

She broke down when she talked about her feelings as she went for the operation at the City.

"I was thinking about my family," she said.

And she said she wanted to send a message to her mum, dad and brother back home telling them she loves them very much.

But she said she does not want her family to see her in a wheelchair.

Ms Sukhanova left the City yesterday for Musgrave Park Hospital - Europe's largest limb-fitting service.

Within the next few weeks she will be fitted and get used to new prosthetic legs.

And, in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, surgeon Ray Hannon revealed that she will be walking again within three months.

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