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He lost his eyes and hands, but not the will to live

“Apostle’s” life changed drastically after he came under heavy fire on the front line. Supported by the love of his life, he now seeks rehabilitation and a way to continue contributing to the Ukrainian Army in any role.
Andriy “Apostle” Smolenskyi and his wife Alina. Photo: Liberov
He lost his eyes and hands, but not the will to live

Andriy Smolenskyi, call sign “Apostle”, was serving on the front line, leading a Ukrainian aerial reconnaissance unit, when he took a direct hit in an artillery battle last May. The blast from the mortar, which landed at his feet, caused a complete loss of his eyesight, partial amputation of both arms, 70% hearing loss, and severe facial injuries. Timely intervention of doctors prevented the shrapnel from causing damage to his brain, a fact for which Andriy feels immense gratitude. In fact, his passion for life remains undiminished.

“You know, many veterans have returned unable to remember their families, their own children. Thank God that I can speak. I can think. I can hear, although with just one ear. I can remember who I am and why I made the choices I did. This allows me to take pride in myself and my family,” said Andriy recently, emphasizing the importance of maintaining his identity and purpose.

Ukrainian soldier combat injuries
Andriy “Apostle” Smolenskyi and his wife Alina before and after. Photo (L): Alina Smolenska FB: photo (R) Liberov

Before the war, Andriy was a cheerful young man with a penchant for singing, travel, and working in the IT sector. Today, he has to adapt to a drastically altered life.  Despite the hardships and pain, he continues to sing and nurture his musical talents.

Ukrainian soldier
Andriy Smolenskyi loved to sing and party. Photo: Alina Smolenska FB

When Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, Andriy did not hesitate and, like many Ukrainians, stood in line at the military recruitment office. Despite initial rejections, he finally secured a position in the 47th Brigade, where he assumed leadership of an aerial reconnaissance unit.

During a reconnaissance mission in late May, Andriy found himself under heavy fire, sustaining severe injuries when a mortar shell detonated beneath his feet. His fellow soldiers and the medics responsible for his evacuation initially thought it would not be possible to transport him to safety. Miraculously, he remained conscious and continued to issue orders to his men.

Ukrainian soldier combat injuries
“Apostle” on the front line. Photo: Alina Smolenska

On that fateful day, Andriy and his comrades had risen early to carry out a critical combat mission. It’s worth noting that Andriy had removed his glasses before getting wounded, a decision that may have caused him to partially lose his sight in the ensuing battles. There was chaos all around them; the noise and smoke were stifling as the men took up their positions.

“We got up very early, around 4-5 o’clock. We woke up, cleaned up, loaded our gear into the car. I was wearing plastic glasses, and I remember getting out of the car… we were talking, and my comrade-in-arms says, ‘Damn, you look like a dick in those glasses!’ Hey, I was the commander, I was supposed to go to the headquarters to talk to the battalion commander, and I didn’t want to look like a dick!”

Andriy’s unit was situated close to the contact line, with artillery shells whizzing overhead during an ongoing artillery exchange. Amid the chaos, Andriy advised his fellow soldiers to take cover in a trench before leaving himself.

“I stretched my arms out of the trench and began to climb out, only to wake up later in darkness, drenched in cold sweat, lying on a cot. I thought to myself, ‘What a nightmare, here I am with my brothers at point 0 …’ I later found out that the darkness was not the night but the loss of my eyesight, and the cot was not my own but a hospital bed,”  he recalls.

While his condition is stable, Andriy faces a challenging path of treatment and rehabilitation, compounded by the absence of specialized rehabilitation centres in Ukraine for individuals with injuries like his. Nevertheless, he remains determined to get stronger and better and continue contributing to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

”I’ll find a way to contribute despite my condition. I plan to approach the General Staff and offer my services. I’m willing to take on any role, even something like clerical work; I can dictate to Siri,” he said.

Andriy is not alone in his journey. His wife, Alina Smolenska, has been by his side since he was wounded, providing much-needed support and assistance. Their bond, forged in love and shared passion for music and the outdoors, remains a source of strength for Andriy.

Andriy and Alina Smolensky were both just 22 years old when they met at a party in Kyiv.

“We talked throughout the night. Afterwards, he tracked me down on Facebook and reached out to me. That’s when we started connecting almost daily,” she says.

Their connection deepened over a shared passion for music, hiking, and the great outdoors. Just three months later, Andriy proposed, and Alina accepted without a moment’s hesitation.

Ukrainian soldier combat injuries
Photo: Alina Smolenska FB

The road to recovery is demanding, and the couple is exploring the possibility of bionic eyes (visual prostheses), a costly option that may aid in restoring Andriy’s vision.

Reflecting on her husband’s commitment to serving in the war, Alina says, “He’s my husband. I love him. What else would I do? This isn’t an act of heroism for me.”

Her presence and emotional support are vital in Andriy’s rehabilitation journey. Medical experts overseeing Andriy’s treatment at a military hospital in Kyiv underscore the significance of love and support as one of the most vital components of a successful rehabilitation process.

Given the loss of tactile sensation and eyesight, Andriy knows that his rehab requirements present challenges that cannot be fully addressed in Ukraine. The couple hopes for opportunities in the US, Canada, or Europe to access prosthetic solutions and cutting-edge technologies that could improve his quality of life.

In an earnest message on Facebook, Alina expresses gratitude for the aid and support they’ve received.

“This is my world at present.  Andriy and I have relocated to a dedicated hospital room. We stroll outdoors, and his speech, although somewhat raspy, carries echoes of Darth Vader.

“His wounds are healing, and Andriy’s resilience is growing stronger. The support you all provide plays a vital role in keeping his spirits high. Whether it’s a call, a message, or a visit, every gesture holds immense significance.

“Thank you all for your time, assistance and support!”

Ukrainian soldier combat injuries
Photo: Alina Smolenska FB

To support Andriy and his family, see details on Alina’s Instagram page and on her Facebook page.

@alina_smolenska

Bank:
send.monobank.ua/jar/7kniCnvh1

Bank card:
5375411206082195

Pryvat Bank:
5363542092797241

Paypal:
[email protected]

TRC20: TASbgTSHgfTMytisS1R51ngCXB2HWDeRvJ
ERC20: 0x6e001ca45bf3569147d978f38d0390cddc2f100c

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