Walk for life: two Ukrainian amputee veterans raise funds for military hospital
Unable to fight now, two Ukrainian war veterans have decided to walk to raise funds for a military hospital for soldiers wounded in Russia's war against Ukraine
AP News reported the story.
Two veterans of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Oleksandr Shevtsov and Serhii Khrapko, set out to walk 120 kilometers (75 miles) from different locations and meet somewhere in the middle to honor the memory of their comrades injured during Russia's war against Ukraine.
Their walk was publicized on social media, and they began raising money to help buy medical equipment for Ukraine's military hospital. Their trip was also an inspiration to many people around the country, as both men were gravely injured in Russia's war with Ukraine, which started back in 2014, and had to have limbs amputated.
Unable to fight now, men have found another way to contribute to the struggle.
“I got a call from my brother in arms, Serhii Khrapko. We’ve known each other for a long time. He said: ‘Sania, our hospital needs aid. This is truly our dear hospital, the one that saved our lives. It saved my right leg,” Shevtsov said.
“This is how we can help our brothers and sisters in arms, and in some way our country. Because our country is really fighting right now. We are all fighting in the ways we can.”
Khrapko, who is missing an arm and was jogging with one prosthetic leg, left Kyiv at 3:05 p.m. on May 15. Shevtsov, who has a prosthetic leg, had started the race three hours earlier from Zhytomyr. They met on the road five days later after walking a total of 165,156 steps toward each other.
They raised 3.1 million hryvnias (USD 84,000), while the aim was 500,000 hryvnias (USD 14,000) needed to purchase a new gastroscope for Ukraine’s National Military Medical Clinical Center.
War stories and personal battles
Shevtsov, 38, was drafted into the military nine years ago, when Russian-backed separatists seized government buildings in Ukraine's eastern Donbas and declared the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, sparking the war.
On July 4, the same year, he was hit by shrapnel on the outskirts of Luhansk, severely damaging a major artery. Doctors at the hospital worked feverishly to restore blood flow to his limbs. Despite their best efforts, surgery failed and his left leg had to be amputated.
After six months of surgeries, he was released with one leg saved.
But that is when Shevtsov’s private battle started. He could not stand to wear the prosthetic leg provided to him. He was embarrassed to even go outside and sit in his wheelchair in the yard in case anyone saw what had happened to him.
Oleksandr was then transported to Austria for rehabilitation training. That changed everything. He witnessed how people of all ages, from children to the elderly, walked confidently with their prosthetic limbs. He promised himself, "I will never sit in a wheelchair again."
Khrapko, 45, was a carpenter who made furniture for kindergartens until the war began in 2014. He was mobilized and served in the army's 30th Mechanized Brigade. The serviceman was hit during a mortar bombardment on the outskirts of Luhansk in July 2015, a year after Shevtsov was injured.
His injuries were far more serious. When he was admitted to the military hospital, he had lost both an arm and a leg. He had almost 20 surgeries.
It was Khrapko who came up with the idea for the walk after learning that the hospital was in severe need of a gastroscope. So he called Shevtsov and informed him of the situation.
“You will walk from Zhytomyr by foot, and I will walk to Kyiv to meet you. That’s how we will raise this money.”
The friends concede they may have acquired some calluses after the long jaunt. “But that’s not a high price,” they say.