BLOOMINGTON, Minn (FOX 9) - After putting their lives on the line for their country, five Ukrainian soldiers who lost limbs during the war made the more than 5,000-mile journey to Minnesota on Saturday.
They arrived to a hero's welcome, with dozens of Ukrainian-Americans and supporters waving flags and carrying signs of support at MSP International Airport.
The trip was made possible by the Protez Foundation, a local organization that launched Prosthetics for Ukrainians. They are now helping Ukrainian children, soldiers and civilians who have lost limbs because of the war get free prosthetics in the United States.
The idea was sparked by Yakov Gradinar of Limb Lab, a Minnesota-based orthotics and prosthetics service.
"We started to think how we from Minnesota could help Ukraine...instead of sitting and talking about it, we decided (we could) help," said Gradinar.
"Losing a limb is like losing a close friend or family member. It's very exhausting, physically, and psychologically. In war, you are even more handicapped."
21-year-old Danyelo lost both of his legs fighting for his country. He tells Fox 9 he was overwhelmed by the support he's received halfway across the world and hopes his story will inspire others to keep fighting whatever battle they may be facing.
"I want to show to people that without legs...the world is not ending. I want to continue to do my sports and continue to live," said Danyelo.
The group will have their first prosthetics fitting Sunday, On Aug. 7, the Ukrainian American Community Center will host a dinner and fundraiser for the group featuring Ukrainian food, drinks, singing and dancing. They are expected to be in Minnesota for the next three weeks.