Larysa Zariczniak, Kiyv.

The New Pathway

The war with Russia has caused many casualties – thousands were killed, many more are now psychologically affected by the traumas they have experienced.

There are also now hundreds with amputated limbs in a country that is not fully prepared to deal with the difficulties that are associated with handicapped people. The prosthetics industry is not developed and many of these products need to be shipped in from abroad nor are there a complete rehabilitation facilities. NATO has been looking into starting a rehabilitation program since the autumn of 2014, yet there has not been anything substantial that was started on the ground.

It was because of these reasons that members of Euromaidan Canada, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Canada-Ukraine Foundation began the “Ukraine Prosthetic Assistance Project” which will lead a team of prosthetists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists from Canada and the US to Kyiv from April 26 to May 8 this year. During their almost 2 week stay in Kyiv, they will work alongside their Ukrainian counterparts, particularly the specialists from the US non-for-profit organization “ProsthetiKa” to improve the skills and knowledge of prosthetics in a country that is in desperate need of it. The World Rehabilitation Fund is also providing assistance and additional support, including financial, to the project.

Dr. George Luczkiw, the project medical advisor stated: “I had met true heroes during my travels in Ukraine in 2014 and was awed by these men and women who risked their lives for freedom and truth. We must remember those who died in this struggle and help those who have been disabled by it.”

The President of “ProsthetiKa”, Jon Batzdorff, adds that the “main objective of the mission is to transfer the knowledge and experience to Ukrainian specialists who will be able to work independently and effectively in the future as well as establish contacts for future cooperation and exchange.”

Taras Bahriy, the President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Toronto Branch, added that this project is “very timely and ambitious” that will provide practical assistance to the victims but also “convey the necessary knowledge to Ukrainian prothetists and rehabilitators.”

His opinions are also shared by Victor Hetmanczuk, president of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation: “This project is an example of an effective use of resources. Not only will five candidates be provided with prostheses but there will also be a transfer of experience to Ukrainian experts…As of now, amputees are forced to go abroad using funds collected by volunteers”. Now, Ukraine has the opportunity to build up its own prosthetics field.

The project is also supported by Oleksiy Krasnoschokov, an advisor to the Director of Social Services on the Protection of Disabled People, the Chairman of an expert group on prosthetics and the head of pidmoga.info – an NGO specializing in handicap-amputees located in Kyiv.

Oleksiy admits that this project “will help Ukraine as the specialists will be here for 2 weeks to teach Ukrainians how to make prosthetics and learn how to place them without having those injured go to Germany or Canada, which is very expensive.” There will be at least 5 candidates that will be measured for complex prosthetic arms and legs – including myo-electric prosthetics. These candidates will be chosen with the “help of the military hospitals, and those who are in the most need will be helped: mainly those with double amputees (both legs or arms or one leg and an arm amputation).” Oleksiy continues that Ukrainians “need to learn and understand how to help ourselves better. We need to help those with injuries because in a couple of years, they will be forgotten and we can’t think of how much money to spend on them but the importance of bringing them back into a normal life and this is the first step in that.”

Oleksiy is also working on establishing a fund that will enable businesses to find amputee soldiers that will allow them to help reintegrate back into normal, everyday life. Oleksiy also admits that these programs are led by and actively supported by volunteers because the government is absent in all of this. Ukrainian Diaspora programs like the “Ukraine Prosthetic Assistance Project” are also an impressive project that will help Ukrainian veterans and those with handicapped disabilities.

In accordance with the Assistance Project, Serhiy Hordiichuk, a soldier of 30th Mechanized Brigade, who was stationed in Mariyinka in the summer of 2014, where he became a victim of the Grad shelling and lost his arm, is touring Canada. He is advocating for the “Ukraine Prosthetic Assistance Project” and was in Hamilton on March 16 and in Oakville on March 22. If you would like to donate to the “Ukraine Prosthetic Assistance Project”, please contact the project director Antonina Kumka at a.kumka@sympatico.ca.Prosthetic Assistance Project