Internet InfoMedia ukrainian refugees wounded soldiers hope for us aid as funding remains stalled

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Over $113 billion in U.S. tax dollars have already been sent to help Ukraine fight off the Russian invasion. But an additional $60 billion in aid is stalled in Congress and defense officials warn Ukraine is running out of resources.

In Ukraine, there is a shortage of soldiers, ammunition and confidence that Western aid will come soon. Tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians have died or lost limbs in the war. 

Twenty-five-year-old Oleksandr Bazilevych has only his right arm left. A Russian grenade exploded near him last September as he was helping a wounded friend reach a medic. He wasn’t surprised when he lost his limbs. 

“It could be even worse,” Bazilevych says as he sits in a Minnesota rehabilitation and prosthetic treatment clinic. Other organizations told him it would be impossible to help him. Then he found the Protez Foundation.

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a doctor helps a man in a wheel chair with his new prosthetic arm

“It’s pretty hard. You cannot see your family. You don’t understand what will happen to you, how it’s going and what will be next,” Oleksandr Bazilevych says about his time in the Ukrainian army.  (Mills Hayes)

Ukrainian American Dr. Yakov Gradinar was living in Minnesota and working as a prosthetist when the war started two years ago. He and his business partner and CEO, Yury Aroshidze, have now opened up three clinics, with another on the way in Kyiv, Ukraine.  

“They get much better quality of prosthetic care,” Gradinar said about the over 160 Ukrainian soldiers, civilians, and children they’ve brought to the U.S. “They get [a] break from sirens from all this pressure from war.”

A man sits over zoom talking with a reporter

The Protez Foundation takes amputee cases that nobody could help with in Ukraine. Dr. Yakov Gradinar says over 40% of the soldiers they fit for prosthetics return to the front line to fight. (Mills Hayes)

The nonprofit says over 60,000 Ukrainians are in need of prosthetics. Their waiting list is over 1,500 people long. 

Bazilevych says joining the military was the right decision at the time, despite only having one limb left.

“We want civilization in our country. We want freedom in our country, not like in Russia,” Bazilevych said. 

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Twenty-seven-year-old Ninel Nosachova fled Ukraine at the start of the war. She and her family were refugees in Germany for months as she finished her education for physical therapy. Nosachova felt like she wasn’t doing enough to help her country. 

“People my age are fighting and protecting my country. I need to join. I need to protect my country, and then I saw this foundation on [the] internet,” Nosachova said. 

For the past eight months, she’s been working as a volunteer physical therapist at the Protez Foundation, helping soldiers who fought for her freedom walk again. But she worries about the future of her country without more U.S. aid.  

“We don’t have a lot of resources for the fighting and if the USA will not help us, we will die,” Nosachova said. 

photo of a ukrainian woman sitting on a workout bench in a rehab center in the US

Ninel Nosachova, who goes by Nellie, said she’s nervous to return to her home country because she says people have changed, grown angrier, and some of her friends have died in the war. (Mills Hayes)

Resources are running out as additional aid is stalled in Congress, with Republican lawmakers insisting new funds be linked to action against illegal border crossings.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized Tuesday at a meeting of Ukraine allies that the U.S. “will not let Ukraine fail.” 

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows that over 30% of Americans say the U.S. is providing too much aid to Ukraine.

The national debt, which measures what the U.S. owes its creditors, increased to $34.54 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office indicates that the national debt will grow to an astonishing $54 trillion in the next decade. Should that debt happen, it could risk America’s economic standing in the world. 

Ukrainian-American Walter Anastazievsky is the refugee services director at the Ukrainian American Community Center in Minneapolis. His parents and grandparents fled Ukraine after WWII and he felt like this was an opportunity to give back. 

“I’ve literally had someone say, ‘Oh I thought the war was over.’ Pay attention, because people are suffering,” Anastazievsky said. 

Anastazievsky estimates the center has helped over 1,000 refugees get access to housing, health care and employment. 

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A refugee service director sits in a chair talking to a reporter

Refugee services director Walter Anastazievsky isn’t holding his breath for more funding from Congress. “It’s anyone’s guess what’s going to happen in Washington,” Anastazievsky said. (Mills Hayes)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday. He promoted former President Trump’s plan for a loan to Ukraine, rather than aid, to continue supporting the country in the war with Russia

“I think Ukraine needs assistance in any form that it can get. Ideally, it would be a continuation of the kind of assistance that the U.S. and other countries have been providing,” Anastazievsky said. “I don’t know that Ukraine is in a position to reject aid regardless of how it’s structured.”

Back in Ukraine, Dr. Gradinar is opening another Protez Foundation clinic in Kyiv. The demand for high-quality, free prosthetics is high. 

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As a Ukrainian American, Gradinar says he understands the need for taxpayers to know how their money is being spent in Ukraine. But he says Russia’s desire to take over the world is “scary for the 21st century.” He says Ukrainians want to be free of corruption and have a democracy like the U.S. 

“Tell me who’s going to be elected in United States as the next president? We don’t know,” Gradinar said. “Tell me who’s going to be elected in Russia president election. Everybody knows.”

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