A Ukrainian soldier who lost his leg and has been fighting on the front line wearing a prosthesis will run the London Marathon to raise money and share a message of unity against Russian aggression.
Roman Kashpur lost his leg in 2019 when he stood on a mine, but fought on the front line in Ukraine wearing a prosthesis for six weeks after Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
The 26-year-old, from Khmelnyk in Vinnytska, has since moved into a role training fellow troops and on Sunday he will run in the 43rd London Marathon to represent his country and raise money for Citizen – a charity that supports Ukrainian servicemen with amputations.
“After the large-scale invasion happened more than a year ago in Ukraine, I immediately returned back to my activity as a soldier… wearing a prosthetic leg,” Mr Kashpur told the PA news agency through a Ukrainian translator.
“This marathon is a big challenge for me, but I’m going to do it not only just to run it but also to stimulate other people.
“(I want) to give them a great example that life is going on and you should live your life and be motivated even having these difficult and terrible injuries.
“The main message is, of course, that we have to be united… to help Ukraine, to protect the country and protect the world; to stop this evil (and) to stop this aggression.”
It is the first time Mr Kashpur has been to the UK, where he said he has felt “amazing” support for Ukraine.
“During my training session… I noticed a lot of Ukrainian flags waving on official buildings… I feel the support from this country coming to Ukraine and for Ukrainians, it’s amazing,” he said.
Mr Kashpur, who is supported by his 32-year-old wife Yulia and sons Oleksandr, two, and Ivan, eight, has been training for the race for three months and it is the latest in a series of physical challenges he has faced.
He competed in Ukraine’s Games of Heroes competition, winning categories including pull-ups and CrossFit, and he set a Ukrainian record by pulling a 16-tonne cargo plane in 2022.
“London is a different level because it’s not just official Ukrainian, it’s a world marathon,” he said.
“After this, I’m going to participate in all possible races because the idea and the objective is still the same – to fundraise and also to attract attention to these people who need this additional help during this military aggression.”
After Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, Mr Kashpur joined a volunteer military force in his home country in 2016, aged 19, before signing a military contract with the Ukrainian army a year later.
“It was unacceptable that some strange people were trying to attack my territory, my home,” he said.
“People were trying to attack my home, my relatives, it was like an act of terrorism… I just felt this power in my soul that I would like to join this fight.”
Mr Kashpur said he lost his leg aged 22 when he stepped on a mine while on an intelligence mission on May 16 2019 in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
“There was an explosion and I realised I had lost my leg,” he said.
“I lost my right lower leg… it was an immediate amputation and I had a second amputation in surgery later that day.”
Despite the pain of the injury Mr Kashpur said the event has made him stronger.
“(I thought) it’s not going to be my weakness, it’s going to be my strength,” he said.
“Of course, physically it’s really painful, it’s an unpleasant situation when you have this type of injury.
“But emotionally it helped me to become stronger and enjoy my life even more… because it brought additional perceptions into my life.”
Six weeks after his injury Mr Kashpur received his first prosthetic, which he described as a “special addition” to his body.
“I got my first prosthetic and it was really just a special addition to my body, of course, and I decided to use it as much as possible,” he said.
“But I would like just to highlight it’s a time-consuming process, you should be very patient and my recommendation to all people, to all soldiers with this type of injury, is don’t be in a hurry.
“Follow the recommendations of your doctor… (and) my advice is to accept it psychologically first and then do it properly and of course stay patient.”
Mr Kashpur is aiming to raise £100,000 for Citizen and is being helped by the British-Ukrainian Aid fundraising group.
To contribute to Mr Kashpur’s cause, go to 2023tcslondonmarathon.enthuse.com/pf/roman-kashpur-2023