“I had never thought it would ever happen to me. But since it did, what can I do?” 21-year-old Nastia, who lost her limb but not hope
Associated Press photojournalist Emilio Morenatti lost his left leg while covering the conflict in Afghanistan in 2009. Now he is telling the stories of those Ukrainians who suffered the same pain but remain strong and hopeful. We publish one of them.
A German speaker, 21-year-old Nastia has tutored children in the language, and she’s always wanted to study in Germany. In early May 2022, she was evacuated to a specialized facility in Leipzig for rehabilitation after her lower right leg was amputated below the knee and her other leg was badly broken. This was not the way she wanted her dream to come true, but she said she was going to make the most of it and did her best to stay optimistic.
Nastia comes from Chernihiv, the city in the north of Ukraine. It was under constant shelling and aviation bombings for over a month. There had been no electricity or running water for two or three days in the Chernihiv basement where Nastia Kuzik, her parents, her brother, and another 120 people had taken shelter. Tired of the dark, she decided to go to her brother’s house nearby — just for a while.
Walking back toward the bomb shelter, the 21-year-old heard the noise: “tsch-tsch-tsch.” She ran. She was just a few steps from the entrance when the explosion flung her to the ground. She drifted in and out of consciousness. Every time she opened her eyes, her brother was there telling her everything would be OK. But nothing would ever be the same.
Doctors worked hard to save her leg, but it was impossible. Her lower right leg was amputated below the knee, the other leg was badly broken. Now, gradually, as she goes through painful physical therapy, the reality is sinking in.
“I am accepting it,” she said. Nastia’s usually bright, cheerful disposition falters. A tear runs down her cheek. “I had never thought it would ever happen to me. But since it did, what can I do?”