Special project 19:23 29 Sep 2023

Valerii Odainyk: "I immediately asked my comrades which parts of my body were gone so as not to look for them in the hospital"

Valerii Odainyk, a physical education teacher and coach of the basketball team of Kamianets-Podilskyi National University named after Ivan Ohienko, decided to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine ranks in 2020.

"It was a conscious choice. I felt that I had to join the army," says Odainyk.

While still studying at the same university, he graduated from the military department and received the rank of junior lieutenant. He recalls thinking about service in 2009 but was offered a job at the university, so he decided to devote himself to teaching.

In 2020, he applied to the military unit in his city, but there were no vacant officer positions at that time. The very next year, Odainyk was called back and offered to serve in the educational unit. "When the opportunity arose, I joined the service without hesitation," recalls the 37-year-old father of two children.

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Valerii Odainyk made a conscious decision to join the army.

He volunteered to go to the war zone

At the beginning of his service in the Ukrainian army, he was a platoon commander. For some time, he performed the duties of the head of the course, then returned to the work of the platoon commander.

"At the beginning of the full-scale war, I was officially appointed head of the course. That is, I had about 130 people under my command. We immediately started training the mobilized. All the people who came to our unit attended our courses; we trained them in various military specialties," says Odainyk.

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At the beginning of the full-scale war, the soldier prepared others for the front line and soon went there himself.

The service in Kamianets-Podilskyi lasted until December 2022. Odainyk explains: "My position was not such as to go to war. I trained the mobilized in the battalion. There were only a few departures for a few days during this time, so I voluntarily wrote a report that I wanted to go to the war zone, and that's how I was sent."

At least four strikes per minute

In the combat zone, Odainyk became the commander of the sapper group, with three more soldiers under his command. Initially, they were engaged in demining Balaklia in the Kharkiv region.

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During the war, Odainyk managed to experience various roles at the front.

Then, due to heavy losses on the front line near Bakhmut, the 93rd separate mechanized brigade Kholodnyi Yar was supplemented by Odainyk's group — mining became their task.

"I arrived with my group just when the Russians were trying to take Bakhmut from the side of Ivanivske. I was positioned just on the side of Ivanivske," Odainyk recalls. "We counted: there were at least four strikes per minute. We got used to humming and noise there. It felt a little strange after the injury when it became very quiet."

"I didn't lose consciousness and didn't feel pain"

The soldier was wounded when the group was driving a car on a combat mission at night. The driver ran into an anti-tank mine; the explosion happened just from Odainyk's side, so he was the one who took the entire impact. The driver was partially hit, and the other fighters suffered minor concussions.

Odainyk recalls his condition: "After the explosion, I did not lose consciousness for a minute. The yellow flash of the explosion just blinded me. There was no pain because of the release of adrenaline." Odainyk's comrades started bandaging him, and he, being conscious, asked what parts of his body were absent so as not to look for them in the hospital. "They told me everything. When they took me to the evacuation, I knew what I didn't have."

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The soldier received many injuries, among them was the loss of both legs and fingers.

The soldier lost one leg above the knee, lost a foot on the other leg, lost a finger on his right hand, suffered burns on the left side of his body, and received a brain injury.

"This is war. I knew where I was going, and I was ready for anything," says the soldier.

When Odainyk was brought to Chasiv Yar, he experienced clinical death. The soldier was rescued and put into an artificial coma. Then, there were Kramatorsk, Dnipro, and Kyiv, where amputations and many operations were performed. The next stop was Lviv.

The soldier recalls that he stayed in Lviv for 20 days and was sent to a rehabilitation center, as the hospitals were overcrowded then. He still had stitches, but, as he was told, he was more or less shippable compared to the others that arrived.

"I'm improving my movements"

During treatment in Kyiv, Odainyk's wife Inna obtained contacts for the soldier's participation in the prosthetics program in Estonia, later contacted to clarify all the details, and the soldier left for Tallinn.

"Excellent impressions! As promised, we were given some of the best prostheses available today. Prosthesis was made in a fairly short time. After that, the medical staff worked with us daily and individually. I received incredible pleasure! In general, we were treated very warmly in Estonia," Odainyk shares his gratitude.

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The soldier is still getting used to prostheses, but he already admits that they are one of the best in terms of functionality.

Now, the soldier continues rehabilitation. In Estonia, he was given the contacts of Ukrainian specialists who know the specifics of these prostheses. With these specialists, Odainyk currently works. He is learning to manage the prostheses because they require certain skills. They have many functions that need to be learned and understood to make it easier in the future. Prostheses help in many ways, and they support themselves. You just need to understand how they work. So now Odainyk is improving his movements.

"They are waiting for me both in the unit and at the university"

Odainyk plans to get treatment and return to the unit, health permitting. He says that they are already creating the conditions for him to complete further service, and his comrades don't want to let him go. According to the contract, he had three more years to serve.

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The soldier is ready to go back to the front.

At the same time, Odainyk kept his job at the university, and the chair encouraged him to return to teaching. Colleagues and his wife and children are very supportive.

"There are many plans, but it is difficult to predict how the body will behave," the soldier shares.

"You are not disabled"

Odainyk also appeals to everyone in a similar difficult situation: "First of all, never stop. Secondly, you should never think of yourself as disabled. You are not disabled — you are currently just limited in motor skills. All this can be returned to a certain level. You can find yourself in society — that's 100%. People will only stare at you for a month or so because it's new for them, and they don't understand what this can be. But later, they will adapt, and you will be perceived as ordinary people."

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Odainyk does not doubt that, regardless of the pace and results of rehabilitation, he will be able to find himself in society.

The series of materials Faces of Strength was created within the framework of the special project of the Ukrainian Charitable Foundation BGV and solutions media Rubryka as a way to express gratitude to the Republic of Estonia for the systematic support and with great hope for the continuation of the program on prosthetics of Ukrainians. You can support the prosthetics of Ukrainian defenders by clicking HERE. Your contribution will go towards covering logistics costs for program participants.


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