(WASHINGTON) — A U.S.-based nonprofit is providing life-changing prosthetic limbs to Ukrainian soldiers who were wounded while defending their country against Russian forces. In just a few months, Kind Deeds has helped 11 soldiers receive and get fitted with prostheses.
Two of them, 32-year-old Roman and 50-year-old Oleh, each lost a leg in land mine explosions. Kind Deeds helped them get to New York, where they were fitted with their new prosthetic legs at Staten Island University Hospital. Occupational therapists there helped them regain their ability to walk.
Before the war began, Roman lived in Kyiv, where he worked in heating and ventilation. He volunteered to serve in the engineering troops shortly after the invasion and was injured while performing a mission in the Zaporizhzhya region. Oleh, a military reservist, is married and has a 23-year-old son. An avid fisherman and traveler, he was injured during a combat mission near the village of Davydov Broad.
Roman said his close-knit family was “traumatized over the situation.” He doesn’t feel like a hero, but said he would go back to the front lines if he’s needed.
“I’m a regular guy. I want to go back to my normal life, like before the war,” Roman said.
For Oleh, despite all he’s lost, his sense of humor remains intact. When he was injured, he said he looked down and said, “Oh, thank God it’s only one.” Still, he felt he let his comrades down, but never considered the notion that he wouldn’t be able to walk again.
“If I couldn’t walk, I would jump,” Oleh said.
Kind Deeds, based in New Jersey, estimates there are “thousands of amputees” like Roman and Oleh, said Dmitry Shevchenko, a Ukrainian occupational therapist with the organization who moved to the U.S. in his early teens.
Shevchenko said the first soldiers helped by the nonprofit were brought to Staten Island, where a local family was willing to host them for two months. With more than 200 soldiers on their waiting list, the organization continues to expand.
“America has the best expertise in prosthetic treatment,” Shevchenko said.
Five wounded soldiers are currently receiving treatment in the U.S., according to the Kind Deeds website. Six soldiers have received their protheses, gone through the rehabilitation process and returned to Ukraine.
Roman and Oleh have many weeks of rehab ahead before they can go back home, but there’s no dimming their spirits.
“I don’t have the right to be depressed, I’m experienced. I have to show an example to younger generations,” Oleh said.
Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.