Ukraine’s Wounded Warriors Receive High-Tech Care

Ukraine’s Wounded Warriors Receive High-Tech Care

In the city of Lviv, the victims of war can hope for a new life through innovative reconstructive and prosthetic surgery.  


It’s easy to forget that Ukraine is at war as a frisky dog attempts to jump into the fountain at Stryisky Park in Lviv. Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine and the former center of the province of the Hapsburg Empire known as Galicia, home to peasants and famous Jewish novelists alike. Parents with small children line up for gelato, straining to get some relief from the heat before the bustling shop closes late in the evening. 

Since the Russian invasion, this cultural entrepot, renowned for its coffee shops and chocolate, has become a haven for displaced persons from the east, straining resources and worsening the city’s already horrific traffic. Look no further than license plates for evidence of the war. In early July, I spotted cars from Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, and Kharkiv—all owned by displaced persons. 


The influx has also meant that property prices in Lviv have spiked. Before the war, Kyiv was the hot market—no more. For the first time that anyone can remember, it costs more to rent in Lviv than in Kyiv.

And it’s not difficult to see why. The war, thousands of miles away, almost seems like a bad dream. With its cafes and fairytale architecture, Lviv is a historic European city infused with Ukrainian vitality. 

As I walked to fetch an iced coffee from Black Honey, a popular shop in downtown Lviv that remained open during the early days of the war in February 2022, a siren blared. Suddenly, the pedestrians near me stopped and knelt. A truck festooned with small loudspeakers blared “Plyve Kacha,” a traditional funeral song. A hearse slowly drove over the cobblestone streets surrounded by police escort. The city paid tribute to another one of its fallen sons in the battle against renewed Russian oppression. 

Then, back to the morning rush. 

Since Lviv is one of the safest cities in Ukraine, displaced persons and wounded service members have made a beeline for it. The city boasts not one but two first-rate prosthetics and rehabilitation ecosystems.

In Vynnyky, a sleepy suburb thirty minutes outside of Lviv, the American philanthropist Howard G. Buffett placed a bet on a talented team that, in eighteen months, has built a world-class reconstructive surgery wing. It includes a center that designs and prints prosthetics, provides mental health services, and rehabilitates the wounded from start to finish with occupational and physical therapy. It’s called the Superhumans Center.

Since the center opened in April 2023, it has provided vital prosthetics free of charge to 600 patients and performed over 100 facial reconstructions. The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation recently granted political risk insurance to Superhumans for up to $25 million in damages, a vote of confidence in its operations. Indeed, it’s the very first Ukrainian facility to receive this designation.

When I visited, I met Dmytro, a tall and angular thirty-eight-year-old solider from the Zaporizhzhia oblast who lost his left leg in combat. A former patient, he is now an employee of the center. He picked me up in a black station wagon emblazoned with the Superhumans logo in Lviv and drove me to the campus in Vynnyky. The war has upended his life. His family is now scattered across Ukraine and Europe.   

It’s easy to give lip service to Ukrainians’ resilience, but at Superhumans, it is omnipresent. Upstairs in the rehabilitation departments, men of all ages and sizes learn how to take their first steps, often breaking out into grins as they gain a degree of mobility that once seemed impossible to achieve.

Olga Rudneva, CEO and co-founder of the Superhumans Center, stops to tease them. She reassures one that he’s still attractive with his hearing aid. Rudneva’s personalized touch is, you could even say, pitch-perfect.    

One patient with a robotic arm is learning how to stack cups. Another man with a high leg amputation lifts weights. In the swimming pool, two patients can’t help but smile at their weightlessness and wave. Children of patients can now swim with their parents. The whole rehabilitation process involves a patient’s family.        

In less than a year, Olga and her team established a surgical center with two operating theaters with ICU units. The original idea for Superhumans came from a collaboration between Ukrainian entrepreneur Andrey Stavnitser and Rudneva, who began working together immediately after the war began, running a series of warehouses in Europe to provide humanitarian relief. Stavnitser, a co-founder of the project, is actively involved in its operations. 

French surgeons shuttle back and forth between Paris and Lviv, working with their Ukrainian counterparts to reconstruct faces. They often remove skin from the leg to the face and re-amputate in some cases. 

While the Superhumans Center is independent, Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska actively supports the project and helped forge cooperation with the French Health Ministry. This eventually resulted in France’s active participation in surgical missions.

Olga, a tall bird-like blond, exudes competence and impatience as she vapes in her office. She works heroically long hours after relocating from Kyiv to Lviv to create and manage the project. Soon enough, Superhumans will open smaller operations in other locations. Complex cases that require surgery will still be referred to the Lviv headquarters, but prosthetics, mental health services, and rehabilitation will soon be offered at Dnipro and Odesa as well. 

“Reintegration is the hardest part,” Rudneva observes. She estimates that it takes up to twenty-four months for a wounded soldier to take care of their health needs and detach themselves formally from the army. Most want to return to the front.   

As I begin to gather my belongings, a patient with a prosthetic leg quickly passes by Olga’s office, showing off his newfound mobility. Rudneva can’t hide her smile. “He’s going to be a father in a month.” 

Life begins anew in Lviv.  

Melinda Haring is a senior advisor at Razom for Ukraine and a non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. She tweets @melindaharing.

Image: Ivan Stanislavski /