The wounded soldier reminisces about his recovery

Wounded Ukrainian soldier receives new high-tech limb with support from US nonprofit

NEW YORK – “He wanted to know if he could shake my hand,” said Roman Horodenskyi’s interpreter, standing next to the 20-year-old Ukrainian soldier.

“He’s only been holding the arm for two weeks, so he’s still getting used to operating it,” his translator added in an interview with CNBC in November. told Horodenskyi in their native Ukrainian that he could practice greetings.

The 6-foot-3-inch Ukrainian marine smiled and spread his right arm, a lightweight combination of silicon, carbon fiber composites and thermoplastics. Taking a deep breath, the gentle 230-pound soldier looked down at the active limb, extending his fingers and slowly squeezing a reporter’s hand.

A breath of relief and another smile spread across his face.

“He lost his arm and leg in a landmine explosion,” said Roman Vengrenyuk, a Horodenskyi volunteer. Soldiers revive Ukrainea non-profit organization dedicated to bringing wounded soldiers to the United States for specialized health care treatment.

Horodenskyi, a wartime amputee in Russia, was one of 65 wounded Ukrainian servicemen who benefited from the work of a nonprofit organization that provides treatment in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Orlando. Vengrenyuk has accompanied Horodenskyi to New York for events over the past few months to raise awareness of what has now become a year-long Russian onslaught across Ukraine.

“Our nonprofit found him, and he’s only 20 years old. He’s got a lot of life ahead of him,” Vengrenyuk told CNBC, adding that the two quickly became friends. into a deep friendship.

In a separate conversation with CNBC, Ukrainian President Iryna Discipio on Revived Soldiers said the effort to assist wounded soldiers “is extremely important.”

“Ukraine is focused on the war and we are helping the heroes left behind. We are helping the Ukrainian army by taking care of the wounded,” Discipio said.

“Also, it is important to show the United States the outcome of this war,” she added.

Horodenskyi, affectionately known as the “miracle from Mariupol”, was one of Ukraine’s defenders who survived the Russian carnage in the strategic port city last spring.

Mariupol .’s first line of defense

A man holds a child while fleeing a Ukrainian city, on March 7, 2022.

Aris Messinis | AFP | beautiful pictures

At dawn on 24 February, Russian troops swept across the Ukrainian border as rockets shot through the dark sky, marking the beginning of the largest air, sea and land assault in Europe since. from World War II.

For months before the full-blown invasion, the United States and its Western allies watched the steady buildup of Kremlin forces along Ukraine’s borders with Russia and Belarus. The increased military presence mimics Russia’s moves before the 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea, a peninsula on the Black Sea, sparking international outrage and triggering sanctions aimed at the machine. Moscow’s war.

The Kremlin has always denied that its massive deployment along the Ukrainian border is a prelude to an attack.

Since Russia invaded its former Soviet neighbor a year ago, the war has claimed the lives of more than 8,000 civilians, injured nearly 13,300 and displaced more than 8 million, according to Soviet estimates. United Nations.

Meanwhile, the lives of many soldiers like Horodenskyi who have survived their ordeal have been forever changed by the brutal conflict.

At the time of the invasion, Horodenskyi was serving in the 36th Brigade of the Ukrainian marines as a machine gunner near Mariupol. Following in the footsteps of the men of his family, Horodenskyi joined the army at the age of 18. He traded his hometown of Odesa, a populous metropolis on the Black Sea coast, for the once industrious southeastern port city of Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov.

In April, the marines in Horodenskyi’s unit were the first line of defense in the city, home to 400,000 people before the war.

His units were scattered around the perimeter of Illich Iron and Steel Works, Europe’s largest producer of galvanized steel, when Russian fire breached his position. Horodenskyi moves behind a tree.

While he can recall the landmine blast that took his left leg and severed his right arm, the consequences are still vague.

He remembered his Marines moving him, he remembered the pressure of the garo and the rush to a makeshift field hospital.

Horodenskyi recalls: “I was in a dark bunker like this with other wounded soldiers. There was hardly any medicine, supplies or food. Really nothing.”

For more than a week, he sheltered in place with his “brothers,” as he called them, until he ran out of the last of painkillers, bandages, water, and ammunition. Meanwhile, Russia bombarded the expired Ukrainian marines, and troops continued to advance on them.

“His commander made the difficult decision to surrender to the Russians, and the wounded were taken to a field hospital in Donetsk,” Vengrenyuk said. “At that facility, there is a party for [uninjured] detained, another for wounded Ukrainian soldiers and a separate area for wounded Russian soldiers.”

Horodenskyi detailed a horrifying account of his nearly three weeks in a Russian military hospital. Russian troops are in the hospital, people who can move themselves are allowed into the open room where wounded Ukrainian soldiers are kept. They openly beat, harassed and tortured Horodenskyi and his comrades, he said.

He recalled a group of Russian troops along his bed poking the exposed bone from his right shoulder. He said soldiers took turns interrogating him while grabbing the bone and twisting it.

He remembers the excruciating pain.

While in the hospital, Horodenskyi’s condition rapidly deteriorated and Russian surgeons amputated the rest of his right arm. By May, he had sepsis, a condition that threatens organ failure, tissue damage and death if not treated quickly.

Stricken with sepsis and with less than a week to live, Horodenskyi was returned to the Ukrainian army in a prisoner exchange.

“The Russian commander clearly didn’t want Roman to die in their hospital because then he couldn’t be used as a bargaining chip to release one of their men,” Vengrenyuk said. “But he’s young and his body is strong enough to survive.”

‘Think of everything he’s been through’

Roman Horodensky, 20, poses with a prosthetic arm at a clinic in the United States after losing his limb in battle in Mariupol, Ukraine while fighting for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Photo: Roman Vengrenyuk

Horodenskyi underwent nearly a dozen surgeries in his hometown of Odesa before traveling to the US, where he was fitted with prosthetics.

He received a prosthetic leg in Orlando in September, and then his arm in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, about 30 minutes from Philadelphia.

“Think of all he’s been through,” says certified prosthetist Michael Rayer, of Prosthetics innovation in Eddystone, told CNBC when asked to reflect on Horodenskyi’s journey.

“Just the best guy,” he added.

Rayer recounted that during his first meeting with Horodenskyi, he saw that the Russian had amputated only about an inch and a half of the humerus in his right arm. It makes the prosthesis fitting process more difficult.

“He really didn’t have a lot of real estate to work with,” Rayer said. “There’s a lot of weight transferred to that residual limb and so we spent a lot of time fine-tuning the prosthesis to make sure he was comfortable.”

“Our office has a lot of experience with multi-trauma, which is people with multiple limb loss, which adds an entirely different layer of care,” he said. “Because, how can you wear one of your lower limbs if you only have one arm or if you don’t have one?”

Roman Horodensky, 20, poses with a prosthetic arm at a clinic in the United States after losing his limb in battle in Mariupol, Ukraine while fighting for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Photo: Roman Vengrenyuk

Rayer, who spent a total of eight weeks with Horodenskyi, said the prosthetic arm he received can cost up to $70,000.

“We donated all of our time and we were able to do about half of it,” Rayer said.

Rayer adds that it can take anywhere from a few months to many years to develop full mastery of the prosthesis. He said that while it takes each person a different amount of time to adapt, he found that when he worked with Ukrainian soldiers, he found that they were “very mechanically proficient.”

“They really understand how something works, and they understand how to make it work for them. I don’t know if it’s their military training, but it all seems to them. all actually adjust pretty quickly,” he added.

After being cared for in America, Horodenskyi returned to Ukraine and proposed to his girlfriend Viktoriia Olianiyk, whom he dated before the war broke out. The couple got married in December in Ukraine.

Horodenskyi’s injury did not dampen his desire to rejoin the army, as the Ukrainian army held out longer than anyone outside the country expected to Moscow’s might.

“I really want to go back to fighting,” he told CNBC in his native Ukrainian, pausing for Vengrenyuk to translate.

“My whole country is fighting fiercely, and many of my brothers are still imprisoned,” he said.


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