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I will witness victory with my own eyes: military veteran, who lost his sight in war

I will witness victory with my own eyes: military veteran, who lost his sight in war Vladyslav Yeshchenko (Photo: RBC-Ukraine)

From the early days of the full-scale invasion, Vladyslav Yeshchenko volunteered as a demining specialist on the eastern front. While carrying out his mission, he suffered severe injuries due to the detonation of projectiles, resulting in the loss of both his eyes.

In an interview with RBC-Ukraine, the serviceman shared his experience of moving forward after such a grave injury and how he is assisting those affected by the war, including blind veterans.

Watch the full conversation on the RBC-Ukraine YouTube channel.

Decision to volunteer for war

On March 5th, I took an oath. I arrived at the military enlistment office in the city of Sloviansk as a volunteer, from where I was deployed to Chasiv Yar. I volunteered because it was the right thing to do, the necessary thing. How else could I act? When such events unfold in one's country, when loved ones are in danger, one cannot sit back and wait for someone else to take care of it.

Injury and rehabilitation

We were on a mission in the village of Bohdanivka near Bakhmut, where the ground was littered with PMN-1 anti-personnel mines. Our task was to clear the area of these explosives. During the process of isolating the munitions, when there were already 84 units in the containment chamber, one of them self-detonated, causing a chain reaction that set off all the others. I was right next to it at that moment. Darkness engulfed everything, a deafening sound resonated in my ears, and I felt the impact of a severe concussion. Over 30 fragments were lodged in my body, bones were shattered, my face was disfigured, and my lungs and mucous membranes were affected. I lost my sense of smell, and my eyes had to be removed. I now have a titanium plate in my head and jaw, hearing aids in both ears and prosthetic eyes in place of my natural ones.

The most terrifying aspect for me after the incident was the thought of becoming a burden rather than the person who had always dedicated his life to helping others in need. I had always lived that way, giving myself fully. And this thought devastated me from within. It was the most challenging aspect to come to terms with.

After embarking on the arduous path of recovery, gathering all the necessary documents, and seeking out rehabilitation programs, I realized how challenging everything had been. I was only able to accomplish it because of the highly capable people around me, knowing that not everyone has such opportunities.

That's when the idea of creating a charitable organization came to me. On January 24th, 2023, together with Artem Pakhomov, I became a co-founder of the charity organization "Pobachymo Peremohu" (Seeing Victory). We take care of the visually impaired, providing assistance regardless of whether they are military personnel or civilians.

Reading technology for the visually impaired

When I was offered the opportunity to go to Spain for six months, I had already established the charitable organization. I declined the trip to avoid being part of an experiment for half a year, uncertain about whether I would return with digital vision or not, and unsure if the technology could improve during that time. I thought it would be better to send someone who was equally prepared and eager for it. Meanwhile, during those six months, I would continue the work of the charitable organization, ensuring that all the necessary conditions could be created in Ukraine so that the ready technology would be available here.

However, the information about this technology changed slightly later on. We did not send any soldiers there. After signing a memorandum with the institute in Spain, we learned much more about it. The final verdict today is that none of the three participants in the experiment were able to see anything yet.

From a scientific perspective, there has been tremendous progress in this technology, but vision is still absent. It doesn't make sense to send anyone there now; it would be better to wait until everything is done with quality and the final product has been thoroughly tested. I want to do everything in my power to ensure that all necessary conditions are in place in Ukraine when this technology is ready so that it can be installed here, and people can undergo comprehensive rehabilitation on our soil.

I will witness victory with my own eyes: military veteran, who lost his sight in warVladyslav and his girlfriend Valeriia (Photo: RBC-Ukraine)

Motivation after injury

It is quite simple, we are true Ukrainians, it is within us, just some need to find it within themselves. When we went to defend our Motherland, we did it with a clear conscience and good intentions. Now, the whole country is watching us, wondering how we will overcome everything that has happened to us. The best thing that has happened in this situation is that a person has survived. If you survive, life doesn't end. I want to become a great example of this. Even when I had sight, I didn't see as many prospects for good as I saw when I became blind.

What I want to see

There are two things. Sooner or later, but one hundred percent it will happen. I will witness our victory with my own eyes. And I will ensure that anyone who needs it can see it with their own eyes too. At least, I will do everything in my power for that.

And secondly, I really want to see my entire family, sit at a big table with my loved ones, with my relatives, with close friends, and thank them. Because without them, I wouldn't have been as strong as I am now, and I wouldn't have had the meaning of this life or the desire to make the world a little better.