Pavlo Nazarenko from Zaporizhzhia volunteered for the frontline from the first days of the full-scale war. He decided for himself that he could not do otherwise.
"The full-scale war caught me far from home, so I spent the first day getting home. The next day, my family and I, probably like everyone else, packed an 'emergency kit' and watched the news. We were very scared. At that moment, I decided that I didn't want to be afraid, I wasn't ready for fear. I made the only right decision - to pack my backpack, go to a shop to buy cigarettes and Snickers and go to the military commissarat".
Pavlo joined the 110th Brigade of the Zaporizhzhia Territorial Defence Forces and took the call sign "Architect", as in peacetime he held the position of chief architect of Zaporizhzhia. At the end of March 2022, Pavlo went to the war zone.
Over the 15 months of the fierce war, "Architect" fought in Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions as a sapper.
"From the latter, I was an explosives technician in a group of heavy attack drones, meaning my task was to prepare ammunition, load the attack drone, and send it to target. Our team was very effective. When I now see the familiar names of the liberated settlements, I feel proud of what we are doing," Pavlo said.
In the summer of 2023, while performing a combat mission, Pavlo came under enemy air attack. The defender's life was saved by his reliable armour and his comrades-in-arms who provided him with first aid in time.
As a result of the shelling, Pavlo Nazarenko lost a hand and one eye, his other eye was also injured by shrapnel, and he is currently undergoing treatment. The soldier also received numerous shrapnel injuries to his legs.
Pavlo was invited to participate in a programme of rehabilitation of Ukrainians wounded in the war, supported by Metinvest Group and foreign doctors. The Saving Lives humanitarian initiative of Metinvest was one of the organisers of more than 30 reconstructive surgeries on the face and neck for Ukrainians wounded in the war as part of the Face the Future Ukraine mission of Canadian and American doctors in Ivano-Frankivsk.
In October, as part of the project, Pavlo underwent reconstructive surgery to restore part of his face and lost eye, and a modern titanium implant was installed. Thanks to the latest microsurgical techniques, foreign doctors were able to restore his facial features and correct the scars left by the war.
"Many soldiers who were injured on the front lines need not only restoration of functionality, but also reconstructive surgery on the affected areas of the face. This is also important for their self-perception and confidence, for communication with others. In addition to the physical discomfort caused by scars, injuries attract unwanted attention from others and cause psychological discomfort. Plastic surgery provides a certain amount of freedom, because the scars of the war do not adorn anyone. They cannot be removed from the soul, but the external scars can and should be worked on," - Pavlo said.
In addition to Pavlo, there are five other defenders from Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk regions who have undergone surgery under the programme. The reconstructive surgeries were free of charge for all the injured.
"Some of my comrades were ashamed to even go out and communicate with their families after their facial injuries. It was only after the restoration of facial aesthetics that they were able to overcome this fixation and are gradually returning to normal life. In addition, facial reconstruction affects other capabilities as well - thanks to these surgeries, the guys began to breathe, hear, eat, and see more comfortably. These surgeries are necessary for both functional and mental comfort of the soldiers who were injured in the war. I hope that after further surgeries, my eyesight will also be restored, at least partially," - Pavlo Nazarenko said.
Today the defender is undergoing rehabilitation. He says his fight is not over. Now it is a struggle with pain, but he is not afraid of difficulties and will continue to fight on.
"The worst thing you can lose in wartime is not the ability to travel, or even your limbs. The worst thing you can lose is your dignity and the right to live freely in your country. This is what I fought for on the front line. This is what I am defending now: despite everything, my struggle continues," - Pavlo Nazarenko summed up.
The Saving Lives initiative was created by Metinvest Group in coordination with Rinat Akhmetov Foundation at the beginning of the russian invasion of Ukraine. From the beginning of the full-scale war, the project has helped almost 500,000 people in 70 territorial communities. Ukrainians have received more than 4,200 tons of foodstuffs and hygiene products, and hospitals have received medicines, consumables, and equipment worth €250,000.
Over 250 companies from around the world, 400 volunteers and 10 foundations and public organisations have joined the project. For more than a year of its activities, assistance from donors has surpassed €2.7 million. The Saving Lives' main areas of activity include prosthetics and rehabilitation for the military and civilians, as well as psychological recovery of women and children.