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As 18-year old Rusya Danilkina and her two army colleagues drove into the Ukrainian city of Kherson, they heard the familiar whistling sound of incoming shelling. By then it was too late.


When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Rusya was 18. She lived with her mother, Svetlana, who works for the Ukrainian military’s personnel department, and stepfather, Anatoliy, commander of a military platoon, in the port city of Odesa.

Rusya applied to volunteer for the Ukrainian army in April and was accepted by a military service centre in Zaporizhzhia, a city in the south-east of Ukraine that has repeatedly come under attack.

Antonia Hoyle, writing in the Daily Mail, shared how Rusya started in an office job because of her age but she begged her commander to let her go to the front. When Rusya persisted, he allowed her to train as a volunteer radio operator, monitoring enemy movement, aviation and attacks. She quickly learned to use a gun, impressed her superiors with her ability to keep calm under pressure during military exercises, and after a month had landed a role largely occupied by male volunteers at least a decade her senior.


Duty shifts were spent in the trenches, often overnight. She was in a hole in the ground, under threat of shelling, in danger and scared all the time. She says she got used to this feeling.


Her commander deployed her to Kherson, a city in south central Ukraine under constant Russian shelling. Just north of Kherson her vehicle was hit by a shell, tearing off her left leg and leaving her in a state of shock. Her colleagues were horrified by what they saw. By God’s providence, military doctors had been driving to Kherson behind their vehicle. After the second round of shelling subsided they carried Rusya to the back of their van, and put a tourniquet on her leg. By the time they’d rushed her to Kherson’s Chornobayivka Hospital, she had lost so much blood that, she recalls, “my doctor told me I was lucky — a few seconds later I would not be alive”.

Life Was Over

That night she couldn’t sleep at all. She couldn’t stop crying, both because she was in pain and mentally, because she knew she’d lost her leg. As Rusya underwent four further surgeries to reconstruct the remainder of her leg and sew up her wound, her mother rushed to her bedside, sleeping next to her daughter.

Her waking thoughts were of suicide. Life was over. Her parents and brother were brokenhearted because she suffered so much.

It was their despair that ultimately proved a turning point for Rusya after days of unbearable torture. “Seeing them suffer, watching me suffer made me realize I had to find a way to fight. I’d survived. Now I had to keep living. I wanted to recover for them.” She remained in hospital for a month as her stitches healed and she learned how to do everything, from getting out of bed to dressing, with one leg and crutches.

Ukrainian Strength

“I had no idea I would be strong enough to survive, but losing a part of myself has taught me never to take life for granted again. I’ve changed. I’m happier now, in spite of everything. I want to show the world the strength of the Ukrainian people. I don’t regret going to war or losing my leg. A few days before the tragedy, I felt in my heart that something bad was going to happen to me, and I think this happened for a reason.”

Rusya is wearing a dress from @distavnitser, the Ukrainian designer, to make a statement to the world: beauty is stronger than any existing prejudices. A kind heart, a true desire to live, and an open mind can triumph over the most difficult traumas. The enemy may have intended for this young woman to isolate herself at home and feel sorry for herself, but here she stands against all odds!


Ruysa is the pride of her nation. She has become an international symbol of Ukrainian defiance. The costs to Ukraine’s population are beyond quantifying, but patriots like Rusya show the true spirit of a nation who didn’t start this war but want to finish it.

Please join the conversation below and post a comment for Danilkina. Share the post on social media. Help keep good news of Ukraine in the news in Canada.

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Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 44 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vincent and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers


  • Julie MacKenzie says:

    Wow! What an amazing story about courage & perseverance…& also heartbreaking. That such a young gal would feel the need to protect herself and her own country from an invasion. But, also losing a part of herself… as part of the price. She is a brave lady. I know that I couldn’t do that. Being a soldier on the frontlines, is not something that I would want to do. It’s just not something that I would strive to do. Thank you for sharing this story with us Pastor Bob. Have a wonderful week. ❣️

  • Laurie Harrison says:

    This story will remain with me for a long time. There aren’t words to describe the young girl’s bravery, trust and perseverance. It is truly an inspiration

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