To Defenders of Freedom

Yevhen, a Ukrainian defender with a prosthetic leg, climbed Mount Hoverla to fundraise for the military

Yevhen Smaha lost his leg during the battles for his native Chernihiv region in the first month of Russia’s full-scale invasion. In August 2023, along with other Ukrainian veterans, he embarked on an expedition across the Chornohora mountain range to raise money for Ukrainian combat units.

Yevhen’s story was told by Ukrainska Pravda.

Since 2014 and up until Russia’s full-scale invasion, Yevhen worked in passenger transportation. On February 24, 2022, the war reached his native Chernihiv region, and within days, there were massive shelling and columns of Russian military on the outskirts of the city.

“My neighbor and I walked around the neighborhood and looked at the damage. The first question that arose: “Am I ready to go?” [join the Armed Forces of Ukraine – ed.]. After what I had seen, I understood that I couldn’t just stay at home,” recalls Yevhen Smaha.

Yevhen Smaha before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Photo from personal archive / Ukrainska Pravda

The man joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine and started to serve in the First Tank Brigade in a mechanized unit. On March 14, 2022, during the fighting with Russian forces near the village of Novoselivka in the Chernihiv region, he sustained a severe injury.

Yevhen was transported to one of the regional hospitals. “I remember the doors slamming and people shouting, but I couldn’t see anything. In addition to the injured limb, my face was severely cut, and blood was pouring into my eyes. I tried to open them, but in vain – there was darkness all around,” says the Ukrainian defender.

Due to received injuries, Yevhen’s leg had to be amputated. After some time, he was transported to Kyiv for treatment and further surgeries. Then, the Ukrainian defender faced a lengthy process of recovery and rehabilitation.

“When the prosthetics process began, I realized that it’s truly a collaborative effort involving the prosthetist, the patient, and the rehabilitation specialist. And it’s crucial for the entire process to take place as close to home as possible,” says Yevhen Smaha.

Yevhen Smaha with other Ukrainian veterans.
Photo from personal archive / Ukrainska Pravda

After receiving his prosthetic limb, the man returned to Chernihiv. Sports has been one of Yevhen’s hobbies; therefore, he actively sought opportunities to obtain a “sports prosthetic”. One of his coaches suggested he join the Ukrainian veterans’ team “Invictus Games” to fulfill his dream. Since then, sports have become an integral part of Yevhen’s life, with training sessions four times a week. In addition to the “Invictus Games”, the Ukrainian defender also participated in other competitions such as “Strong Ukraine,” “Northern Outpost,” and the Arnold Sports Festival.

In August 2023, Ukrainian volunteer and veteran Oleksandr Shetsov offered Yevhen the opportunity to join a trek through the Carpathian Mountains. The goal was to walk along the Chornohora mountain range and climb Mount Hoverla to raise money for Ukrainian military units. According to Yevhen, he couldn’t refuse because “Sasha [Oleksandr Shetsov – ed.] was confident that we would accomplish this task 101%”.

“In the Carpathians, we covered 40 kilometers in 6 days. Apart from our gear, we each carried 10 kilograms of sand, equivalent to each million in aid [charitable donations – ed.]. In total, we had about 25 kilograms on our shoulders,” says Yevhen Smaha.

The Ukrainian defender firmly believes that human physical and mental capabilities are “much greater than we put in use”. According to him, to achieve a goal, it is essential to tune in and confidently move towards it.

Yevhen with other Ukrainian veterans on Mount Hoverla in the Carpathians.
Photo from personal archive / Ukrainska Pravda

“In my life, I only move forward, and if I ever step back, it’s just half a step to gain momentum,” Yevhen shares his life motto.

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