Wounded Ukrainian soldiers receive prosthetics at Orlando rehab center
ORLANDO, Fla. - Every step the wounded Ukrainian warriors at Prosthetic & Orthotic Associates in Orlando take is a small victory.
"Go to United States and get new prosthetics here in this center, so now you see I don't use canes, I don't use crutches, like before this," said Vladislav Zhaivoronok, a wounded Ukrainian soldier getting treatment there.
Zhaivoronok lost a leg and sight in one eye, when he says a Russian rocket hit him, as he defended the City of Mariupol. He was later taken captive and held for two months, until he was freed in a prisoner swap. His wounds were serious enough that non-profit group Revived Soldiers Ukraine brought him to Orlando for treatment. Now, he just wants to go back to the fight.
"I don't feel afraid of death no more," Zhaivoronok said, "I lost almost all my friends in Mariupol. I still have some still alive, but part of them are in Russian captivity still, and part are on the battlefield still. So I cannot feel free now."
He's one of six soldiers currently getting prosthetics and rehabilitation in Orlando. Revived Soldiers Ukraine has also placed wounded troops at other US rehab centers. The work can take from three weeks to nearly three months. It's not always easy, but the staff says these men are driven to succeed. Mykhaylo Varvarych, who goes by the nickname Misha, lost both his legs in the war and is also getting treated in Orlando.
"Misha, first he comes in, goes to the gym, exercises, then he goes to Alex, a physical therapist, so he assigns some exercises to strengthen his body. So very high motivation," said prosthetist Joseph Krizinauskas, who was treating him.
Revivied Soldiers Ukraine raises the money for the prosthetics, and the rehab center provides care pro bono. Organizer Iryna Discipio said it was their way to help win this war. "They're very active, they don't want to sit in a wheelchair, so that's great. It makes me happy that we can actually help."
Zhaivoronok said they wouldn’t quit until the job was done. "All we want is to live in our country, work in our country, to get a better future for our children. Only this."