On January 20, the Ukrainian diaspora in Northern California met with the military personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who directly defended Ukraine from the Russian invasion. All five military men are people of different ages and different destinies. Among them are conscripts who came to the front for the first time, and experienced fighters. But all of them have one thing in common - they visited the hottest points of the front, were seriously injured, lost limbs and, thanks to the help of caring Americans and representatives of the diaspora, they went through a prosthetics program in the United States. Now these people are trying to return to a full life.
From Zaporozhye to Bakhmut
Artyom only 21 years old, but he already has experience fighting in the Ukrainian Donbas. It was there, in the village of Zaitsevo near Donetsk, that the young man was wounded and lost a limb. Sergei before the invasion, he served in Transcarpathia, but after February 24 he ended up in Zaporozhye, where he also lost his leg as a result of a wound. The application for prosthetics was approved only 7 months after the injury. Nicholas, wounded in the Kharkiv region, was more fortunate - he got to the USA 3 months after he lost his leg.
Vadim can be called a combat veteran. Since the full-scale invasion, he fought in Chernigov, near Kyiv, and then in Lisichansk and Bakhmut. As a result of the fighting, the military lost both legs, but, as before, he is determined to defend his country. Novel joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine on March 10 as a volunteer and was also wounded in the Bakhmut area, where he lost his arm.
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By the way, the military still maintain contacts with their colleagues on the front line and admit that today the situation near Bakhmut is very difficult, since the enemy spares no human resources.
«The invaders are throwing a huge number of soldiers along the entire front line in the direction of Bakhmut and Soledar. In addition, Russian troops are actively using military equipment and artillery, which causes significant damage to the Ukrainian army.', they admit.
Waiting for dentures
Fund "Protez" (Protez Foundation), who organized prosthetics for the Ukrainian military in the United States, was founded in Minnesota by an immigrant from Belarus Yuri Aroshidze and an immigrant from Ukraine, a certified prosthetist Yakov Gradinar. San Francisco meeting organizer Nikolai Sarazhinsky explained: 34 Ukrainian soldiers and two children who became innocent victims of the war have already passed through the Protez Foundation. However, dentures are currently required by tens of thousands of people.
The foundation lives off donations and fully covers the costs of prosthetics, travel and living in the United States for its patients. In addition, volunteers provide psychological support to the wounded. Volunteers and donors of the foundation live in the US capital (Washington), Portland, Chicago and many other cities, but even their efforts do not fully cover the need for prostheses. At the moment, more than six hundred people, including many children, are waiting for help.
«We try to help different groups of people with different types of injuries. At the same time, we try to select patients with similar wounds in each of the groups in order to facilitate the work of the doctor. Some patients are currently unable to travel to the US because they do not have the necessary documents or their wounds are not yet sufficiently closed to receive a prosthesis. But when these problems are solved, we will definitely bring them here.", - assures Nikolay Sarazhinsky.
"We didn't go to war to survive"
A resident of Cherkasy Oksana Kozhemyakina also met the first months of the war in Ukraine. Fortunately, her city did not fall into the occupation, and after some time the woman managed to leave for the United States, where she met with the wounded soldiers. As a teacher at the Cherkassy University, Oksana admits that despite all the horrors of the war, the young guys look like her students. San Francisco police lieutenant also met Ukrainian heroes Kevin Noble with your team. The policeman noted that meeting with the military is an honor for him.
Meanwhile, the dreams of the defenders of Ukraine themselves are quite simple. At the moment, they still have to get used to prostheses and undergo rehabilitation, but the military is already dreaming of returning back to help in the defense of their homeland with all their might.
«Now I have one desire - that the war ends as soon as possible. I want to quickly return to Ukraine and do social work helping both society and the army”, Vadim admits. He believes that those who occupied Ukrainian territories and carried out massacres in Bucha, Izyum and other cities behaved like nonhumans.
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«If they win, we just won't be", - the soldier is sure.
His opinion is shared by another military man, Nikolai. Despite the loss of his leg, the young man emphasizes that he does not regret anything.
«We went to war to win, not to survive.“, he notes. After what the young man encountered at the front, he is convinced that without a victory over the enemy, a normal life in Ukraine will be impossible. On the other hand, the volunteers who came to meet with the military are sure that the cult of death prevailing in Russia today can only be countered by life.
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