He Lost His Legs in the War in Ukraine, but Not His Will to Run

Artem Moroz was injured in an attack and was not sure he would be able to stand again. He was inspired by a movie about the Boston Marathon bombing to set a new goal.

He Lost His Legs in the War in Ukraine, but Not His Will to Run

Artem Moroz’s four-mile race at Central Park in Manhattan, this month, didn't quite go according to plan.

He had hoped that he could run with new prosthetics that were made in the United States for him, but the devices weren't ready for the race. He walked to the starting line using prosthetics that he brought with him from home, and then was pushed by a wheelchair for the remainder of the race.

Moroz spread his arms wide as the guide pushed him up the hill. He was like a kid imitating an aircraft's flight. The corners of the Ukrainian flag that was tied to the chair's back rippled in a breeze.

He didn't run yet, but he knew he would soon.

Moroz, 44 years old, has been running ever since he was young. His family lives in Irpin just west of Kyiv. 'It was impossible to not run', he said.

Moroz, a project director at large construction sites in the Ukraine, used to start his days by running. He would run at sunrise, through a nearby wood, before heading off to work.

Then war arrived.

Moroz, who had watched Russian soldiers attacking Irpin in March 2022 and was a platoon leader, joined the military at the end of that month. He and his unit were struck by a rocket on Sept. 14 in the Kherson area. He said that if it wasn't for the Polish paramedics and doctors, he might have died. Both of his legs, however, were amputated just below the knee. He said that at first, it was difficult to imagine standing up again.

He watched on YouTube a documentary about the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013 and how the city and running community recovered stronger in 2014.

The film gave him a new goal: Run Boston Marathon. It was six months away.


As he started his quest, social media helped him make a crucial connection. Nadiia Ozmankina, an Ukrainian who had come to the United States for the Boston Marathon a year earlier and stayed due to the war, heard his story and reached him out. She said that running Boston had changed her life and wanted Moroz to have the same chance.

She was connected to both the Ukrainian Running Club of New York City, and the Revived Soldiers Ukraine Foundation, which helps wounded Ukrainian military personnel. Iryna Vaschchuk was the foundation's president and a former professional runner. She was born in Irpin.

The foundation operates a center near Orlando, Fla. where soldiers can be fitted with prosthetics. The foundation was able to fit Moroz for both the regular walking prosthetics for everyday life and the specialized running prosthetics which have rubber treads on the 'feet'.



Moroz, who arrived in the United States late last month, decided to run a few races while he was there. The Ukrainian Running Club is a major presence at races organized by the New York Road Runners (organizer of the New York City Marathon) and they helped Moroz choose a race.

It's not the same as slipping into a pair of new sneakers to get used to a new prosthetic, particularly if you use running blades.

Mary Johnson, whose leg was amputated above her knee following a traumatic accident, said, "It is a completely different muscle memory."

She said that you have to be confident that you will land on the ground if you don't trust your foot.

Central Park's race, which took place in early April, was just one week after Moroz arrived in the United States. The reality set in by then: He would not be competing with his new running blades. He was still out on the racecourse.

The organizers allowed Moroz and Osmankina 10 minutes earlier to avoid him being jostled by the crowds in the corrals. This first race was in a wheelchair, except for crossing the starting line. Some Ukrainian runners cheered on a particular spot along the course.

Moroz, just after finishing, was already thinking about his next race, Boston in two weeks. The Boston Athletic Association holds a five-kilometer run two days before the marathon. It was the 10th anniversary this year of the Boston bombings. Moroz believed that despite his slow progress in the beginning, he would be able run in Boston on his new blades.

Moroz practiced his new walking prosthetics two days before the race in an Orlando parking lot. He said that the fit was still not quite right. Even small changes like drinking a cup of water could affect how the prosthetics fit. This is not uncommon for amputees. The doctors would change something, he'd try it and they would adjust once again.

Sean Karpf was injured while serving in the U.S. Army, and lost a part of his leg below the knee. He said he needed adjustments every 4 to 6 months for the first 2 to 3 years following his injury because his residual limb changed. This is not uncommon for amputees.

In the United States medical insurance does not cover adaptive sports equipment. This is because it's expensive and not medically necessary. Running blades can cost between $12,000 and $15,000. A knee joint is also required for amputees above the knee. This costs more.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will generally cover the cost of this type of equipment for American soldiers injured in the service. However, it can take up to 18 months. Americans who don't serve in the military rely heavily on nonprofit organizations for grants or fund-raising. Johnson received her running prosthetic from the Challenged Athletes Foundation. The foundation provides adaptive equipment grants and offers camps and clinics to teach adaptive sports.

Moroz received his running blades just a few weeks before the Boston race. However, he was not ready to use them yet, so instead he used his walking prosthetics during the 5K. He put the running blades on for photos with Osmankina at the finish. He could not stand or walk without someone to balance him. Moroz almost fell when Osmankina moved away.


Seven months and one day after Moroz was carried off the battlefield, with his life at risk, by Polish medics he ran in Boston for the first. He had imagined the Boston Marathon, but it wasn't what he found. He was running.

Ukraine will soon be able to provide more medical care for those injured during the war, instead of having to rely on European and American hospitals. Unbroken is retrofitting a Soviet-era military hospital from Lviv to help Ukrainians recover from war injuries. Dr. David Crankdell is the medical director at the Boston rehabilitation hospital's amputee centre and a member of the World Health Organization’s technical working group for rehabilitation in Ukraine. Unbroken plans to open a new center for amputees and post-traumatic care in the former hospital next month.

The demand is high. Crandell stated that the First Union Hospital of Lviv receives 25 to 100 trauma patients every day. Crandell estimates that the country may have to accept 5,000-6,000 new amputees due to the war.

Crandell stated, "You can imagine the Boston Marathon every day, for an entire year."

Moroz was pushing Osmankina as she sat in the wheelchair holding a banner. This race had been inspired by Moroz from his hospital bed only months before. After a few more meters, he began to slide on a slick patch of road. Before the second turn, they switched places. Osmankina pushed Moroz with his feet raised so that the heels of Moroz's everyday prostheses would not catch on the floor. He raised his arms, encouraging spectators to cheer louder.


They arrived in front of fans. Andriy Boiko, a Ukrainian from Melrose, Mass. (a suburb of Boston) came with his family and cheered on the sidelines. Moroz said that he was surprised to hear so many people cheering him on and for Ukraine.

Moroz and Osmankina changed places once more as they neared the finish line. Moroz pushed his guide to the finish.

When he was ready, the marathon would be waiting for him. His hand was still shaking from adrenaline 20 minutes after crossing the finish line.

He said, "It could be that I won't sleep tonight."