Story #68. 19-year-old Girl Who Went to Defend Ukraine

February 23, 2023
The story of 19-year-old defender Ruslana Danilkina, who lost her leg to Russian shelling. #UkraineWorldTestimony

Ruslana Danilkina volunteered to defend Ukraine when she was 18 years old. During the first three weeks of service, she worked on "judicial investigations." Ruslana sometimes had to go to the frontline to get information.

After several of these trips, she realized that working with papers was not for her. She wanted to make herself useful in places where fighting was happening. Even though her commander didn't want to take such a young and fragile girl into his unit, Ruslana insisted.

Ruslana's relatives were not happy about her decision and were very worried for her. However, they accepted her choice and told her that she had to make her own choices for her own life.

Upon arriving at the frontline, Ruslana Danilkina immediately began training as a communications operator, receiving and transmitting information about incoming munitions, the movement of equipment, infantry, and aviation, and any sounds and explosions. Ruslana also helped receive the wounded and dead and handed them over to medics.

"My work schedule was 24/7. An operator works day and night. It may seem like you're sitting in one place and just taking notes, but this is serious work. You have to be very alert and attentive, because something can happen at any moment, and you have to immediately report it to the higher command," said Ruslana.

Ruslana recalls that she felt incredible joy when she reported the enemy's coordinates to other units. On the walkie-talkie, she could hear Ukrainian mortars firing at the enemy. "My heart rejoiced that we could avenge our people at least a little," she said.

On February 10, 2023, an air alert was announced throughout Ukraine. Ruslana and her comrades left for a combat mission. As she was answering a phone call from her brother, a shell hit their car.

In a state of shock, Ruslana recorded a video for her brother. She was sure that this would be her last video. Her leg had been torn off.

After being hit, time passed from second to second. Ruslana was lucky to be picked up quickly and delivered to the hospital. At the hospital, the surgeon said that if the girl had been brought 10 seconds later, she would not have made it.

In the first two days after what happened, Ruslana did not want to live. "I was afraid that the world would not accept me, that I would be looked at as a cripple, and that no one would have any use for me. I didn't know what to do and how I could overcome it," she recalls. Moreover, she felt unbearable pain. Ruslana's brother Vlad, his wife Anhelina, and her 4-month-old niece Olivia helped her to believe in herself again. Vlad promised his sister that she would get back on her feet and be able to live a full life. Within a day, he and his wife had scoured the internet for information about amputation, rehabilitation, and prosthetics.

"I decided that I should live for them. I was certain that I would one day walk and run with my little niece. I realized that I had to fight no matter what. To be unbreakable, like all our Ukrainians. Now I want to be a motivation for other people wounded and affected by the war so that they don't lose faith in life. I want to show by my example that it is possible to live a full life. The world should know and be able to accept such people," Ruslana says.

Currently, Ruslana is in a hospital in Odesa and is continuing her rehabilitation. Her relatives are raising money for a modern, high-quality prosthetic. She dreams of returning to the Ukrainian Armed Forces as soon as possible.

This material was prepared with financial support from the International Renaissance Foundation.