Kraków woman who quit her job to help in Ukraine vows to return after losing her leg in a bomb attack
An educator from Kraków who lost her leg in Ukraine while helping besieged residents says she’ll soon return to the war-torn country because ‘the people need me’.
Following Russia’s invasion in February 2022, special educator Grażyna Sławińska decided to quit her desk job and travel to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv to offer her assistance.
Setting off with pal Kamil Moskal, little did she realise that fate would put her to the ultimate test, making her a victim of the very war she sought to alleviate.
Travelling around the country, she later recounted the heart-wrenching encounters with elderly and disabled people who had lost loved ones or suffered injuries themselves.
She said: "I looked into their eyes and sometimes I saw emptiness, they are receptive to conversation and support.”
Tragedy struck on January 6, 2023, the Ukrainian Orthodox holidays.
On her fourth visit to Bakhmut, she found herself caught in the midst of a mortar shell explosion.
The 33-year-old told Fakt: “On a day like Christmas, sitting in the basement is a great trauma. We wanted to bring hope that these people would not be alone. We came to the point of steadfastness, a shelter prepared for difficult conditions, to leave some food and then, 30 meters from me, a mortar shell hit. Its shards injured me and two other people.”
Although being conscious the whole time, the shards of the shell caused her severe injuries but thanks to her friend Kamil's presence and support which kept her awake, doctors were able to save her life.
As a result of the attack, she underwent a leg amputation up to the knee in Pavlohrad Hospital.
Grażyna said: “I broke my foot at the scene of the accident. Doctors had to amputate my leg to save my life. Three days later I was taken by ambulance to Poland and there I underwent four more surgeries.”
Almost five months have passed since the attack, during which Grażyna has gone through weeks of rehabilitation to get used to the fact she has no leg.
Reflecting on her journey of recovery, she recalled an impactful statement from a nurse in the orthopedic ward: “Everyone here is worried about the legs, not the mind, and that's more important."
She said: “That sentence really turned my head around and I started to think it wasn't the end of the world. I guess that made me stronger. The fact that I don't have a leg doesn't take away my femininity.”
With this newfound outlook, Grażyna resolved to take part in sessions for the disabled and empower others to embrace their resilience.
“Because strength is a woman, beauty is not in the body, but in the soul, in the eyes and in the history one has. We disabled people have nothing to be ashamed of. This lack of a leg or other parts of the body does not take away our strength,” she said.
After finishing rehabilitation and receiving a prosthesis, Grażyna is now approaching her return to Kharkiv where she believes her presence will challenge the perception that outsiders cannot comprehend the true nature of the war.
She said: "Now I will return to them and show myself from a different position. I can't sit here. My life is with people who need me."