DENVER (KDVR) — A Ukrainian soldier is on his way back to his home country after spending a month in Colorado. 

Andrii Chersak is from Mardarivka, a small village in Ukraine’s Odesa region. He has a wife and a small son there. Chersak was a construction worker before he joined the Ukrainian military. 

He said he was with a group of soldiers doing some cleanup work when they were hit with mortar and shelling in September 2022. Chersak needed to have most of his right leg amputated. 

“There’s so many amputees right now, unbelievable number of amputees,” Kelli Rohrig said. “Some of them do get just kind of the stick, like the old school. Eventually, he would get a prosthetic, but years and years and years down the (road).”

WWII aid inspired help for Ukraine

Rohrig lives in Vail. She said that during World War II, someone helped her Jewish grandfather and his family escape Belgium. She said that act of kindness is what inspired her to visit Ukraine when the war started to find a way to pay it forward. 

Rohrig is now the president of the Colorado-based non-profit Limbs for Liberty. 

“Our main goal is to bring Ukrainians over that were injured in the war and have lost limbs, and so we’re bringing them here to get prosthetics,” she said. 

Chersak is the first soldier to be brought to Colorado. After arriving in December, he worked with prosthetist Jeff Retallack at the Hanger Clinic in Gunbarrel to find a prosthetic leg that worked for him.

Andrii Chersak in the airport
Andrii Chersak (KDVR)

1st steps taken bring tears of joy

Through a translator, Chersak said it was impossible to find the right words to express his gratitude for Limbs for Liberty.

“When he got his leg and started walking, I do have to say I, I think everybody cried. We were like oh, we did it!” Rohrig said. 

Limbs for Liberty is seeking both monetary donations and volunteers as they work to bring more Ukrainian soldiers to Colorado for help with prosthetics. 

Chersak boarded a flight bound for Europe Thursday evening. He said he is excited to hug and kiss his family but that he will miss the United States. 

He originally planned to reenlist with the military but said after spending time in Colorado, he wishes to further his education instead.