Small groups of soldiers gather outside to share cigarettes and war stories, sometimes casually and sometimes unreliably with memories of their last day of fighting (the day the war took their limbs), so it seems somewhat irritable.
Some vividly remember the moment they were hit by anti-tank mines, aerial bombs, missiles, shells.
For others, the gaps in their memory are very large.
Vitaliy Bilyak’s scrawny body was riddled with scars, and his leg was amputated above the knee. While in a coma for six weeks, Villak underwent more than a dozen surgeries, including on his jaw, hands and heels, to recover from injuries sustained while driving over two anti-tank mines on April 22.
“When I woke up, I felt like I was reborn, back from the afterlife,” said Blijak, who was just beginning his recovery.
He doesn’t yet know when he will receive the prosthesis, which must be fitted individually for each patient.
Ukraine faces a future of more than 20,000 amputees, many of them soldiers who are also traumatized by their experiences at the front.
Europe hasn’t experienced anything like it since World War I, and America hasn’t experienced it since the Civil War.
Mykhailo Yurchuk was a paratrooper who was wounded near the city of Itzium in the first weeks of the war.
His comrades carried him up a ladder and it took him an hour to walk to safety.
At the time, all he could think about was ending it all with a grenade, he said.
A paramedic refused to leave his side and held his hand as he fell unconscious.
When he woke up in the intensive care unit, the doctors were still there.
“Thank you for holding my hand,” Yulchak told him.
“Well, I’m afraid you’ll remove the pin,” replied the doctor. Yurchuk’s left arm is below the elbow and his right leg is above the knee.
In the 18 months since, Urchuk has regained his balance, both mentally and physically.
He met the woman who would become his wife at the rehabilitation hospital, where she was a volunteer.
Now, he doesn’t hesitate to hold their infant daughter and take her for a walk.
His rookie and new legs are solid black.
Yurchuk himself became a major motivator for newcomers to the front lines, pushing them as they healed their wounds and teaching them as they learned how to live and act with their new disabilities.
This connection needs to be replicated formally and informally for thousands of amputees across Ukraine.
“Their whole locomotive system had to be repositioned. They had a whole redistribution of weight. It was a very complex adjustment and needed to be done with another person,” says Amy Amy, a medical historian at Imperial College who specializes in blast injuries. Dr. Lee Mayhew said.
Olha Rudneva, head of the Ukrainian Military Amputee Rehabilitation Superman Center, said Ukraine did not have enough prosthetic specialists to meet the growing demand.
Before the war, only five people in the whole of Ukraine had received formal rehabilitation for arm or hand amputees, which are normally less common than legs and feet, which are sometimes amputated as a result of complications from diabetes or other diseases, she said.
Rudneva estimates that 20,000 Ukrainians have undergone at least one amputation since the war began.
The government did not say how many of them were soldiers, but blast injuries are among the most common in the war with long front lines.
The Unbroken and Superhumans Rehabilitation Center provides Ukrainian soldiers with prosthetics using funds from donor countries, charitable organizations and Ukrainian private companies.
“Some donors are reluctant to provide military aid to Ukraine, but are willing to fund humanitarian projects,” Rudneva said.
Some of those in rehabilitation regretted their withdrawal from the war, including Yurchuk and Valentin Litvenchuk.
Litvenchuk, a former battalion commander, draws strength from his family, especially his 4-year-old daughter, who carved a unicorn into his prosthetic leg.
He recently traveled to a military training ground to see what else he could do.
“I realize it’s not realistic. I can jump into a ditch, but I need four-wheel drive to get out of it. When I move ‘fast,’ the kid could catch me,” he said. Moments later, he added: “Also, the prosthetic will come off.”
The hardest part for many amputees is learning to live with the pain — from the prosthetic, from the injury itself, from the lingering effects of the blast shockwave, said Mayhew, who worked with Hundreds of military amputees were interviewed. her career.
Many are dealing with disfigurement and subsequent cosmetic surgery.
“Co-morbidities like PTSD, blast injuries and pain are very difficult to eliminate,” she said. “When people suffer physical harm and the psychological damage that follows, those things can never be separated.”
For the seriously wounded, recovery can take longer than the war ultimately lasts.
Cosmetic surgery is essential to making soldiers feel comfortable in society.
Many people are so disfigured that they believe others only see them as they are.
“We don’t have a year, two years,” says facial surgeon Dr. Natalia Komashko. “We need to do it like it was due yesterday”.
Billiak, a soldier who piloted anti-tank mines, still sometimes dreams of fighting.
“I was lying alone in the bed in the ward, and people I didn’t know came to me. I realized they were Russians, and they started shooting me in the head with pistols, rifles at close range,” he recalls. “They started getting nervous because they were running out of bullets and I was alive and I gave them my middle finger and laughed at them.”