GATES MILLS, Ohio (WJW) – A Ukrainian armed forces officer will call Northeast Ohio home for the next couple of weeks while receiving treatment for a severe injury.
“We were trying to encircle the defending unit, the enemy unit and cross the terrain. It was bushes and trees and grass and I didn’t see the wire and all I heard next was the explosion,” said Miroslav Pylypchuk.
“I checked myself for injuries and I couldn’t really see anything until I looked down at my pants and saw they’re covered in red, blood,” he said.
The ability to walk has forever changed for the 24-year-old lieutenant who lost his leg above the knee after stepping on a land mine in May.
“The fight is real and support is needed badly,” said Pylypchuk.
In the U.S. on a visitor visa, Pylypchuk said he hopes to return to military service and continue working to ensure stability for his wife and newborn baby boy in Ukraine.
This trip, a moment of peace away from the war that carries the hope of being able to walk more independently again. It’s thanks to a connection with a local Ukrainian community who rallied to help Pylypchuk.
“I got to know Miroslav through volunteering work I was doing with a small community here in Cleveland,” said Igor Bondarenko, who is hosting Pylypchuk. “His unit was one of our units targeted with delivery of tourniquets, delivery of supplies.”
Pylypchuk said he is learning to use a prosthetic leg donated by the Hangar Clinic in Mayfield Heights.
It was a connection made through Bondarenko, who interpreted the interview with the lieutenant.
Pylypchuk said he is thankful for the support of friends and grateful to be able to receive medical care in the United States.
“I believe in five years this will all be over and Ukraine will rebuild,” said Pylypchuk. “Ukraine will be prosperous, Ukraine will be economically successful and my son will be able to walk the streets without worrying.”
Pylypchuk said once back in Ukraine, he wants to continue defending his country against Russian advances.
“I definitely intend to continue to fight,” he said. “My help is needed and I will be there.”
An independent Ukraine depends, in part, he said, on continued support from allies. It’s a message he said Americans need to hear as they cast their ballot.
“Everybody has to think for themselves and think about the choices they make when they vote,” he said. “This choice is about what’s right and about goodness and the light over darkness and that’s what it comes down to. People have to choose.”