“Amputation is like graduating from school: a new phase of life is just beginning,” veteran Serhii Khrapko

… It was hot July 2022. A man was walking along the Danube river bank in Vienna. Traces of sweat were visible on his T-shirt. The face was also open. He characteristically swayed his whole body: instead of his left leg he has a prosthesis, his left arm is also amputated. The man walks recklessly and stubbornly.

This is Serhii Khrapko, a veteran of the Russian-Ukrainian war. In 2015, he lost a leg and an arm during shelling on the Svitlodarsk arc.

He organized himself a marathon and covers the distance in order to raise funds and buy a diesel SUV for his brothers.

“I hope I don’t rub my last legs to my back,” he quipped, calling on everyone to donate. In the end, the required amount was collected, the car was purchased and transferred to the unit’s task area.

Sports, skydiving, scuba diving: “Adrenaline kicks in just fine”

We talk in his car in Pechersk district of the capital. The man is pleasantly surprised that the parking space for people with disabilities was not occupied – during the day, on a weekday, in the city center.

By the way, Serhii got behind the car just after the injury – he had not driven before, although he had a license.

“I got behind the wheel for the first time in 2018. It was a little unusual, because I was studying mechanics, but sat down behind a machine gun,” he says with barely noticeable pride.

Therefore, we involuntarily start a conversation about how the state and local communities take care of veterans who have lost their limbs. Our interlocutor is slightly annoyed and radiates healthy skepticism: there have been few noticeable changes in nine years of war and the return of wounded soldiers from the front.

“It’s still the same pain in the neck with MSEK and VLK. A lot is planned, but without result. Some projects get frozen and sputtered along the way, then shut down funding etc. And there are many people that are wounded. If earlier a wounded person with an amputation was something unusual and caused many “wows”, now you can walk into any hospital ward and there are like five such people, roughly speaking. For example, I haven’t been able to get to my prosthetist for the second month, and I understand that, he doesn’t have much time now,” says the interlocutor with passion.

After treatment and rehabilitation, Serhii is an integral member of the Ukrainian veteran community and sports competitions. He was a participant in the largest military competition in Ukraine, the Invictus Games. Even now, he does not shy away from participating in sports events.

“Sports, first of all, is communication, meetings with brothers and sisters, other people. But now I still go to the gym, because I need to keep myself in shape. The prosthesis is fixed on the stomach, I go to the prosthetist quite often, and if I will “grow fat” – then I will go to him even more often. That’s why you need to keep yourself in shape,” Serhiy explains.

He has done two parachute jumps (in tandem with an instructor) and does scuba diving.

“That’s cool. For the first time, I jumped from a height of 4.5 km. It took my breath away when we jumped out of the plane. A minute of free fall. It’s an incredible feeling. It goes off the scale, the adrenaline kicks in just fine. When I went scuba diving in Egypt, there were other sensations, but a little steep. The instructor was controlling, but it’s interesting,” the veteran says playfully.

“Children don’t remember me with two arms and legs”

Right after the parachute jump, in one of the interviews, Khrapko said that “our land is very beautiful from a height. It’s worth going to war and losing your legs.”

“When did I fall in love with this country?… But it was a long time ago. I remember that everything started in 1991: flags were worn on T-shirts, patriotic badges were made from pennies. This “national flavor” came over time to Russian-speaking Kyiv. And while studying history, I learned more about the UPA – and it was interesting, something new. I immersed myself in the topic, it became an impetus. I was not very patriotic, but… our land is really beautiful (laughs). And the understanding that this is our country! And in 2014, after the first shelling from the territory of the Russian Federation, I realized that this is no longer an anti-terrorist operation and that it will not end tomorrow or the day after tomorrow…”.

When Serhiy was wounded, the eldest son was seven years old, and the daughter was one year old. We ask how communication with children was during that period of life.

Children do not remember with two arms and legs

“To a greater extent, they have not seen me in a different form, and they do not remember me with (two — ed.) arms and legs. They did not focus on this, they treated it without unnecessary questions.

The main thing is that he is alive and healthy. Quite simply, everything happened. Even in the intensive care unit, I realized that I would continue to live without an arm and a leg. And what’s next?… Let’s continue. This is how you finish school — and a new stage of life begins. It looks something like this: yes, as it was – it will no longer be, but it will be a little different. But something will definitely be. I had no psychological problems, I just accepted it as a new phase of life. But, thank God, all my family treated it the same way – life goes on. It’s all right, but a little bit wrong,” says the veteran.

He got used to cooking himself – he jokingly says that he “provides a full range of services”.

“Once he got up and did it – that’s all. And I still do it. And I don’t just chop onions or cabbage – I also cook it completely, it’s a full range of services: from the store to the stomach (laughs). I have a full hand and I don’t see a problem with it. I know a veteran without both hands – and he also does all this, but with two prostheses. Everything I did before the injury, I do now, but all this is done a little slower,” he explains.

Evacuation to Austria and return: “The children said they did not want to learn German”

The veteran states: he had a little “hint” that there would be a big war with the russia.

“Everything was going to that. The last three or four months before the invasion, all these “decrees” and “decisions” by Putin and the impostor terrorist Pushilin… It was clear that all this would end in a big mess. I was sure that they would attack from Donbas to make their way to Crimea. But I could not even imagine that it would be Sumy, Kyiv, Chernihiv. It didn’t cross my mind,” he says.

In March 2022, Serhiy evacuated his children to Austria. He left himself. At the same time, he was looking for thermal imagers and equipment there, abroad, and transferred them to Ukraine for the needs of the Armed Forces, which were fighting fierce battles on several front lines. Ukrainians abroad helped.

“Most Austrians do not like Russians. They support Ukraine. The local community helped us a lot. Many Ukrainians still remain there, some of them have nowhere to return to – their cities, such as Mariupol, are gone. But they decided to return in the summer of 2022. They were already in Ukraine in August. The children said they don’t want to learn German (laughs).”

Then there is the involvement in support of the Armed Forces: fundraisers for car repairs, for medicine, a marathon that he planned even before the full-scale invasion, and a lot of other things that are necessary for veterans.

And the other day, Serhiy joined the promotion of the inclusive class of cars from Uklon.

“They want to start a taxi for people with disabilities. This is a really necessary thing. For Kyiv, it is very appropriate, vitally necessary. I don’t even want to talk about the fact that similar processes are being launched in Ukraine only in the ninth year of the war. Yes, now the number of opportunities for veterans, military amputees has increased. But with a full-scale invasion, the number of wounded increased, so the problem grew exponentially. We need a more systematic approach to solving a complex of problems,” the man says playfully.

– What would you advise relatives, wives of young soldiers who lost their limbs due to the full-scale invasion?

– “Do not caress and do not cherish” , unequivocally. I remember very well how my wife said: nothing has changed for me. Get up, walk, think, move. To”cherish” and to “nourish” is good, of course, if you are lying down and cannot do anything in the literal sense, you cannot raise your arms or legs. But as soon as you have more or less stabilized – go ahead, because then the buns get relaxed, and you won’t want to do anything else, they think that everyone is to blame for everything,” argues the man.

– After amputation, sexual life does not end?

– No. Everything was great and hassle-free. Maybe even something more original appears (smiles – ed.)… Sometimes it was quite difficult, but.. All this is quite individual – everyone has their own problems, injuries, someone may have damaged genitals. But in general – no, sexual life does not end.

– What would be a victory in the Russian-Ukrainian war for you?

– This is a difficult question. For me personally, as of 2015, a victory would be the liberation of our territories, including Crimea. And now I understand that this “boss” will always be by my side, this poor neighbor with imperial ambitions. If it weren’t for the nuclear status of this state, everything would be much easier… But to begin with, the liberation of our territories. Including Crimea.

… End of winter 2022. Poland, heavy snowfall. A man with an amputated arm, jumping on one leg, lands in a snow pillow, and makes a “snow angel”.

This is also Serhii Khrapko. Veteran of the Russian-Ukrainian war. He and his children are visiting Poland as part of one of the rehabilitation programs. Later, he published these videos and called for donations to repair the cars of his brothers. And the money was still collected. The army continued to fight.

We will remind you that the Ukrainian online car calling service Uklon has launched the “Inclusive” class. Veterans, soldiers and all wheelchair users will be able to move freely in specially equipped cars. The new class of cars is available in Kyiv and its suburbs within a radius of 20 km, and further geographic expansion is planned.
The Ukrainian Veterans Foundation of the Ministry of Veterans Affairs of Ukraine is a partner of Uklon Inclusive among veterans and their families.


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