Mountain hiking: Ukrainian amputees smile again

Volodymyr Malykhin, a 31-year-old Ukrainian, lost a leg when he jumped on a mine on the Eastern Front

Mountain hiking: Ukrainian amputees smile again

Volodymyr Malykhin, a 31-year-old Ukrainian, lost a leg when he jumped on a mine on the Eastern Front. Now, walking on crutches, he makes his three-year-old son Bogdan laugh during an organized hike in the Carpathian Mountains (west) as part of a rehabilitation program.

“I am not disabled,” Volodymyr Malykhin told AFP, smiling. “I will even soon be a half-enlarged man,” he jokes.

Another soldier, Andriy Golopapa, 20, like Volodymyr Malykhin, part of a group of around twenty soldiers who hiked this weekend as part of the same program, reached the summit of Mount Klyuch, at 927 m altitude, with his prosthesis.

He had an above-the-knee amputation after being injured near the eastern Ukrainian town of Gorlivka in 2022.

During a break, he removes his prosthesis and wipes his leg with a cloth before starting to do exercises on the grass.

“Reaching the top is a great opportunity to test yourself and achieve a modest feat,” he says.

For Vasyl Nykorak, 37, who lost his right leg on the Eastern Front and had to be transported in an all-terrain wheelchair, this hike is first and foremost an opportunity to clear his mind.

“You forget these things that are otherwise always with you,” he says.

Vasyl Nykorak is still in the process of adapting to his new condition, explains Roman Chuban, head of the NGO organizing this hike.

“It’s normal,” he emphasizes, adding: “Unfortunately, we have a lot of soldiers like him now.”

Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine decided by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022, thousands of Ukrainians have lost one or more limbs.

Authorities in Ukraine's Lviv region (west) hope to organize more such hikes for wounded soldiers.

At the top of the mountain, the amputee soldiers joined a memorial to Ukrainians who fought against Russian forces in World War I.

“Glory to the heroes!”, they say, overlooking the valley. Glory to the Nation!”

09/17/2023 22:42:11 -         TRUKHANIV (Ukraine) (AFP) -         © 2023 AFP