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Ukrainian soldiers who lost their limbs fighting to defend their country from Russia’s invasion over the last few months have arrived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they will be fitted for 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 Ukraine’s National Anthem.
The greeters also held up signs that read, “Welcome Heroes,” with balloons reflecting Ukraine’s iconic blue and yellow.
Minneapolis’ FOX 9 reports the trip was initiated by Minneapolis prosthetist Yakov Gradinar of Limb Lab, a Rochester-based prosthetics service.
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“We started to think how we from Minnesota could help Ukraine…instead of sitting 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.”
Gradinar then teamed up with the Protez Foundation, a local organization that launched a campaign to provide prosthetics for Ukrainians.
The project, called Prosthetics for Ukrainians, has already helped Ukrainian children, soldiers and civilians who have traveled to the U.S. receive free prosthetics.
“The war shook us all up, affected us all,” Foundation president Yury Aroshidze said through an interpreter to KSTP. “There’s a lot of soldiers that have lost their limbs, but there’s a lot of civilians and kids that have lost their limbs, and we’re trying to help as many people as we can.”
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Gradinar and Aroshidze have coordinated with the Department of Homeland security to get the paperwork, visas and necessary travel arrangements for the Ukrainians.
“It took us two months in order to get approval to be able to bring people here to America to get prosthetics,” Aroshidze told the outlet.
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One of the Ukrainians who landed at the MSP international airport was in a wheelchair and told FOX 9 that he lost both of his legs fighting in Ukraine and that he was grateful for the opportunity to receive the prosthetics.
“I want to show to people that without legs…the world is not ending. I want to continue to do my sports and continue to live,” said Danyelo, 21. The other amputees are around the same age.
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Russia first invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. As many as 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been injured in the fighting.