To Defenders of Freedom

With the support of his fiance, Mykhailo undergoes rehabilitation after he lost both his legs defending Ukraine

Sergeant Mykhailo (Misha) Varvarych has lost his legs during the fighting in the Luhansk region in early 2022. Since June, he has been living with his beloved, Ira, in a tiny room in the Truskavets city hospital near Lviv, where he undergoes rehabilitation. NPR told their story.

At the beginning of 2022, Misha wanted to leave the army and focus on his family. But as the Russian war against Ukraine took another turn and a full-scale invasion began, he joined his unit to defend the country.

On May 29, during one of the combat missions, a Russian anti-personnel mine ripped apart both of his legs, and they had to be amputated. The warrior has already undergone 18 or 19 surgeries.

Photo: Carol Guzy for NPR

Misha and Ira met in an online chat room a year and a half ago. For the first six months, they communicated only online and by phone, becoming good friends before actually going on a date.

When Misha went to war for the first time, Ira’s mother urged her to leave Ukraine. “How could I?” she declined. “My man is here fighting the enemy.”

During the forced separation, they regularly kept in touch by video chat. But Misha’s call after the injury was decisive: “I have two news for you. Good one is I’m alive. Second, my legs were cut off.” Ira thought he was joking. Then she fell into shock and wept.

Now Mykhailo undergoes rehabilitation. The couple spends a lot of time together and often goes for a walk: Ira pushes a wheelchair and occasionally rests on Misha’s lap. Ira and Misha have got somewhat used to the new conditions of their life and are making plans for the future, such as building their own house and having children.

Soon, the couple plans to go to the USA, where Misha will receive state-of-the-art prosthetics. “God has plans for me,” the man confidently states. “I need bionic legs to lift my child above free Ukrainian land one day.”

Explore more