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12-year-old Ukrainian runs 5 km marathon on prosthetics to raise funds for a soldier

“I’ve experienced very difficult moments, but now I’m glad I can walk and run again,” Yana says.
12-year-old Ukrainian runs 5 km marathon on prosthetics to raise funds for a soldier

12-year-old Yana Stepanenko, who lost both her legs in a Russian missile strike, completed the grueling 5 kilometer distance of the world-famous Boston Marathon while wearing prosthetics. Her unwavering smile was a poignant symbol of Ukraine’s unbroken spirit in the face of Russian aggression.

“This steel girl Yana Stepanenko, who lost both legs in a Russian rocket attack but ran all 5 kilometers of the Boston course with a smile and love, is a reflection of our strong Ukraine and our unbreakable nation,” marathon participant Iryna Kushakevych wrote in amazement.

Yana’s extraordinary feat was driven by mission to raise funds for a specialized sports prosthetic for heavily wounded Ukrainian soldier Oleksandr Riasnyi, who lost a limb while defending the nation. The brave girl’s ultimate dream is for Riasnyi to experience the joy of running once again.

“Oleksandr Riasnyi has served since 2011,” the Unbroken National Rehabilitation Center revealed. “When full-scale war erupted, he stood to defend his native Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Last September, he sustained devastating injuries on the Zaporizhzhia front, losing a leg.”

The Center confirmed that Riasnyi now uses one of their prosthetics and aspires to rejoin the fight, but also hopes to run competitively – a aspiration carrying a hefty 600,000 hryvnia ($16,000) price tag that Yana is helping raise through her marathon heroics.

The young athlete’s path to Boston was grueling. She began intensive training over two months prior, clocking four sessions per week – two at the Unbroken Center and two at Lviv’s Dynamo Stadium, according to Ukrinform.

“I’ve experienced very difficult moments, but now I’m glad I can walk and run again,” Yana stated during an April 4th open training session. “The famous American prosthetist Peter Harsch gifted me running prosthetics, reigniting my passion for the sport. While a little nervous before my first marathon, I’m confident because of my great rehab team.”

Yana’s perseverance shone through as she powered through all 5 kilometers in Boston with an inspiring, radiant smile.

The young marathoner’s path has been scarred by Russian invasion. On April 8, 2022, her family was among the thousands awaiting evacuation at the Kramatorsk railway station when Russian forces struck with a ballistic missile loaded with cluster munitions. The attack was a sickening massacre, leaving 61 civilians dead and 121 more injured. In the Stepanenko family, only Yana’s twin brother survived unscathed – their mother lost one leg while Yana suffered the traumatic loss of both.

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