In his wildest nightmares he didn’t think he would stay on the job for the next 24 hours, treating hundreds of wounded.
Never seen so many dead
“I’ve been with MDA since 2001, and I have never seen so many dead and wounded in the space of 24 hours,” Guliak tells ISRAEL21c.
Last Saturday, after over one thousand Hamas gunmen infiltrated Israel from the Gaza Strip indiscriminately attacking civilian communities in a violent rampage that killed over 1,300 people, Israel declared war.
“I woke up that day to the sound of explosions,” he says.
Guliak realized it was rocket fire, but admits he wasn’t bothered too much, since he is used to the phenomenon — as are most residents of southern Israel.
“I got into my car and began driving from Ashkelon to Sderot,” says the paramedic, adding that he didn’t see a single vehicle on his way to the MDA station, which he thought was a bit odd.
“As I was reaching the station, I began hearing gunshots. As soon as I got to the station, we began getting calls from people who said they had been shot in their cars by terrorists who were on the road shooting everywhere.”
As the most senior paramedic out of the four working from the Sderot station that day, Guliak was in charge.
Two of the wounded made their way into the station to receive treatment, and eventually that number grew to eight.
“I don’t know why, but we didn’t have cell service and could only communicate via WhatsApp, so we couldn’t get a full picture of what was happening.”
As time went on, the gunfire got closer and closer to the MDA station. “Based on the sound, it was fire from FN MAG machine guns,” said Guliak. “At first we thought it was a gun battle with our forces. Only later did we realize that the sound of that gunfire was a massacre of civilians.”
Under live fire
Guliak barricaded the MDA station and carried on working. “Simultaneously, we were getting reports the police station was taken over by terrorists. So we understood there are no police in the city anymore.”
Some of the wounded were critically injured, so Guliak decided – despite the shooting outside – that the crew should begin transporting the most seriously wounded inside a bulletproof ambulance, wearing bulletproof vests stored at their station.
The MDA assembly point for transfer to hospitals was a few kilometers way, but as the ambulance made its way there, it was able to pick up more wounded along the route.
Once delivered to helicopters for transport to hospitals, the MDA team then returned to the station in Sderot.
It took around three hours or so for the Israel Defense Forces to enter Sderot. Even now, Guliak finds it difficult to estimate timing because so much was happening.
Once inside, the IDF and Guliak’s MDA team set up join treatment sites in Sderot, treating dozens of wounded, many injured during the 10-hour shootout with Hamas terrorists outside the Sderot police station.
“All of this is under live fire,” admits Guliak.
It wasn’t just gunshot wounds. Guliak also rushed to help a woman giving birth in her home.
“We put a helmet on her and took her to a hospital,” he explained.
If not us, then who?
Guliak is very quick to thank all the other paramedics, who stood “shoulder to shoulder,” saving lives throughout Saturday. “We knew the terrorists were still in the city, but fought for the life of every wounded.”
Not every paramedic on shift that day made it out alive. “There are those who were wounded. There are those who were killed among our forces,” Guliak admits.
Since the start of the war, Guliak and other paramedics have been working in emergency mode.
“Every ambulance is manned at all times,” he says.
“Have you thought of quitting?” I asked him.
“On the contrary. If not us, then who?”