Ukraine-Russia War: Ukrainian soldiers amputees arrive in Minnesota for free prostheses

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Ukrainian soldiers who have lost their limbs fighting to defend their country against Russian invasion in recent months have arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they will be fitted with prosthetics.

The five Ukrainian soldiers arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Saturday and were greeted by dozens of Ukrainian Americans and others, who sang the national anthem of Ukraine.

Visitors also held up signs that read “Welcome, heroes,” with balloons reflecting Ukraine’s signature blue and yellow.

Minneapolis-based FOX 9 reports that the trip was initiated by Minneapolis prosthetist Yakov Gradinar of Limb Lab, a Rochester-based prosthetic service.

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“We started thinking about how we in Minnesota could help Ukraine…instead of sitting down and talking about it, we decided (we could) help,” Gradinar said. “Losing a limb is like losing a close friend or family member. It’s very exhausting, physically and psychologically. In war, you are even more handicapped.”

Ukrainian soldiers arrived in Minneapolis-St.  Paul International Airport on Saturday July 23, 2022.
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Ukrainian soldiers arrived in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Saturday July 23, 2022.
(FOX 9)

Gradinar then partnered with the Protez Foundation, a local organization that launched a campaign to provide prosthetics to Ukrainians.

The project, called Prostheses for Ukrainians, has already helped Ukrainian children, soldiers and civilians who traveled to the United States to receive free prostheses.

“The war shook us all, affected us all,” Foundation Chairman Yury Aroshidze said through an interpreter at KSTP. “There are a lot of soldiers who have lost their limbs, but there are a lot of civilians and children who have lost their limbs, and we are trying to help as many people as possible.”

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Daviti Souleymanishvili, 43, born in Georgia and naturalized Ukrainian, listens to a doctor at an orthopedic clinic, in Kyiv on May 25, 2022.

Daviti Souleymanishvili, 43, born in Georgia and naturalized Ukrainian, listens to a doctor at an orthopedic clinic, in Kyiv on May 25, 2022.
(Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY/AFP) (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Gradinar and Aroshidze coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security to obtain the necessary documents, visas and travel arrangements for the Ukrainians.

“It took us two months to get permission to bring people here to America to get prosthetics,” Aroshidze told the outlet.

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One of the Ukrainians who landed at MSP International Airport was in a wheelchair and told FOX 9 he lost both his legs fighting in Ukraine and was grateful for the opportunity to receive the prostheses.

“I want to show people that without legs…the world doesn’t stop. I want to keep doing my sport and keep living,” said Danyelo, 21. The other amputees are about the same age.

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Daviti Souleymanishvili, 43, born in Georgia and naturalized Ukrainian, looks at prosthetics in the window of an orthopedic clinic, in Kyiv on May 25, 2022.

Daviti Souleymanishvili, 43, born in Georgia and naturalized Ukrainian, looks at prosthetics in the window of an orthopedic clinic, in Kyiv on May 25, 2022.
(Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY/AFP) (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia first invaded Ukraine on February 24. No less than 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers were injured in the fighting.

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