Story #149: Sculptor Turns Prosthetist to Transform People’s Lives Now

May 15, 2024
Liubomyr is a professional sculptor who uses his knowledge of human anatomy to create prostheses within Lviv's UNBROKEN rehabilitation center.

Surrounded by sculptures he creates for himself and his clients, Liubomyr smiles as he explains how crafting artificial limbs for people, a relatively new endeavor for him, felt unexpectedly familiar and seamlessly integrated into his life.

One more workshop appeared in Liubomyr's life when he received an offer to apply his artistic skills to create prostheses for Ukrainians who lost limbs, mostly in the war, of course.

Even before I stepped into the workshop at the rehabilitation center, my curiosity for this work was already piqued, even in a conceptual sense. Art is something rather tectonic; it shapes entire generations. Prosthetics, on the other hand, matter in the present moment.

Liubomyr discusses the craft of prosthetics with such ease that it might seem mundane. But they mean the world for those awaiting the restoration of their physical selves.

"Patients are genuinely eager to receive their prosthetics as soon as possible; however, various complications, whether in the limb or in their overall health, do not allow them to do so it right away. As we try not only to restore a limb but to maximize functionality aligned with the patient's age, we allocate specific timeframes for consultation."

When Liubomyr saw his new colleagues working with gypsum, just as he used to in his working studio, he felt a sense of belonging.

Although the sculptor drew parallels between his previous work and his new job, he had to work hard to be able to talk about his work as confidently as he does now. After spending just a month as a prosthetics specialist with UNBROKEN, Liubomyr was sent to Germany to study classical prosthetics.

"Right after Germany, everything fell into a smooth, consistent process from beginning to end. There, we learned how to create casts and make adjustments for future prostheses. We carefully examined patients' areas of concern, noted their condition, and observed critical nuances."

Liubomyr subsequently received further training in Italy and Israel, further adding to his proficiency.

Right now, he travels great distances with his patients, accompanying some of them as they take their second first steps. However, crafting a patient's prosthetic is not the end of Liubomyr's work.

"It's common for someone to try on a prosthesis, take a few steps, and for us to notice it doesn't fit quite right. We might need to adjust the angle of the foot, raise or lower the toe, and so on. This fine-tuning is crucial, as various adjustments often arise during the rehabilitation process."

Liubomyr's clients are often impatient while undergoing rehabilitation, which he views as entirely understandable. After enduring the trauma of losing a limb and all the basic functionalities they relied upon it for, patients are eager to regain their former abilities.

Liubomyr always tries to build bridges with his patients. It is his task to help them understand that these processes cannot be rushed. At the same time, their persistence inspires him greatly both as an artist and as a person.

"All these people have given a lot and have gone through terrible things. I always try to do my best for them."

The first step of Liubomyr's work is to examine a patient and to understand their overall activity level. Then, he crafts a temporary training stump receiver for them and, only after that, proceeds to create a permanent prosthesis.

These processes are as unique as the traumas themselves. Liubomyr recalls his first experience working with an amputee. It sparked an irreversible shift in his perception of the human body as a whole.

"I wasn't shocked by what I saw, no. It was a feeling I can describe as an illusion that had been shattered.

For six years, I immersed myself in the study of sculpture, pondering the ideal proportions of the human body, whether in ancient sculptures or while working with live models. There was always a sense of the body being represented through these established patterns, a sacred aura surrounding it as if it were invulnerable, immune to harm. Perhaps this is what people often take for granted.

However, war dispels such illusions. It was at that moment that I comprehended it on a deeper level."

This revelation also poured itself into Liubomyr's creative energy. He cannot explain how exactly it influenced his artistic approach, yet he feels something profoundly changed after he joined UNBROKEN.

With his fondness for the small things that fill our lives, Liubomyr couldn't mentally distance himself from a matter as significant as the transformation of the human body. Both as a witness to the physical wounds his patients have sustained and through listening to their stories, he is thoroughly grounded in Ukraine's wartime reality.

Liubomyr feels his work both as a sculptor and a prosthetics specialist represents art, though on different scales. Yet they serve different goals: one is for helping others, and another is more for self-help.

I wanted to say that creativity is a straw I clutch onto for survival, but I'd rather say it is a sturdy rope. Everything I feel, experience, and contemplate needs an outlet, a space where I release it, and it explodes.

Although Liubomyr was not sure at first if he should accept the position with UNBROKEN, he is thoroughly glad that he did. Masterly approaching his skills from different sides of this life, he shows art presence in all we do by his example.

Lisa Dzhulai
Journalist at UkraineWorld