The 33-year-old Ukrainian, who is inscribed in the book of outstanding records of Ukraine for his achievements on the running track, struggled to find words and barely held back tears while talking about the family tragedy.
Mr. Usas is the only person with cerebral palsy in Ukraine who participates in marathons together with healthy people and surpasses most of them.
During one competition, Mr. Us covered the ultramarathon distance – he ran 100 km and finished 66th out of 150 athletes. The result was in the record book, reports about it were shown on Ukrainian and foreign television.
Mr. Us fell ill with cerebral palsy due to the doctors’ fault – they did not perform the necessary caesarean section on his mother, and later damaged the brain of the baby with forceps during delivery. Maksim has been unable to speak since childhood, it is not easy for him to walk, because his leg muscles vibrate involuntarily, and due to the additional disease scoliosis, his spine is crooked.
There are many tests
We met with M. Us in Kiev, where the man and his wife, three years older, Yevgenija, an English teacher and elementary school teacher, settled in their hometown of Chernihiv after the tragedy.
Housing in Kiev was provided temporarily and free of charge by good people, and his wife does not want to return to her own apartment in Chernigov, which was destroyed by an explosion.
“She is very sensitive: she said that under no circumstances would she be able to live where Dima was killed, where she experienced the worst moments of her life,” M. Usas shook his head sadly.
The Ukrainian said that both he and his wife grew up without a father, were single, and felt lonely, so after three months they met on the Internet and submitted applications to register their marriage. The friend decided that she would have at least two children and save money for her own house, but fate turned everything in a merciless direction.
A year and a half after the wedding, the newlyweds had their first child, Dima, but the parents’ joy was overshadowed by the news that their son is autistic and does not speak.
Two years later, Yevgenia gave birth to another son, but he died a few months later due to congenital heart failure.
Many people in Maksim’s family suffer from heart disease, so the doctors guessed that the fate of the baby was determined by the genetic inheritance of a serious defect. Soon after the funeral of the newborn, Yevgenia underwent internal organ surgery, after which it became clear that she would no longer be able to have children.
“The wife went through great sadness because she really wanted to have a big and healthy family. I comforted her all the time, I said that God has given us to have one child, we cannot be angry with him”, said M. Usas.
At his urging, his wife and son also started jogging every day. Despite the difficulties, the family felt happy.
Maksim also took his son swimming, did gymnastics together, and rode bicycles together. Yevgenija had to devote all her time to a disabled child, so she did not work.
Dima could say just a few words – “dad”, “mom”, “grandma”, but he was non-conflictual, calm and obedient.
“Everything could have turned out differently if my wife had asked my advice to run away from Chernigov when the war broke out. However, she believed her mother’s reassurance that we are not in danger, because the Russians will only bomb military objects,” M. Usas regretted.
A fateful choice
On the eve of the war, M.Us returned from the Ukrainian championship, and in the morning, despite the Russian invasion, he dutifully went to work at the Aurora store, where he was responsible for placing goods on the shelves. However, store managers told everyone to hurry home after three hours, as fierce fighting broke out in Chernigov, near the border.
The city soon lost electricity and water supply, and for food brought by charities, people had to wait in line for 4 hours. In addition, the meal was distributed only in a few almost 300 thousand people. in the places of Chernigov, which has a population.
Despite the danger of sirens and exploding bombs, Mr. Usas walked long kilometers every day to provide food for his family. Until the third week of the war – March 15. – a tragedy happened.
“The explosions were heard in our neighborhood at eight o’clock in the evening, after they stopped an hour later, we returned to the apartment. Dima went to sleep, but after a while it started to explode again, so we woke up our son, brought chairs and sat down in the corridor,” said Maksimas.
It would have been safer to hide in the basement of the house, but the family could not go there, because Dima could not endure long in the dark room, so all three were forced to stay in their apartment.
To be safer, Mr. Us covered the windows with adhesive tape and covered them with furniture.
Even later, the family would go to hide in the stairwell corridor during the bombings – they believed that the thickest walls here would provide the best protection in case the roof collapsed from the explosion.
However, it turned out to be a mistake that led to the death of his son and serious injury to his wife.
If the family had stayed in their apartment or sat in the corridor of the second floor, the tragedy would have overtaken them. It happened as it happened – the bomb exploded 8 meters from the two-story house, and after the blast wave knocked out the metal door, fragments poured in.
“I stood to the side by the stairwell door and listened to what was happening outside. A neighbor was standing on the other side of the door, and Yevgenia and Dima were sitting on chairs by the wall. Suddenly, there was such a bang that I became deaf for a short time,” M.Us recalled the moment of the tragedy.
The child could not be saved
After the first gasp from the sound, Mr. Us turned on his flashlight and saw a gruesome sight.
Yevgenia and Dima were knocked to the ground by the blast wave, bloodstains were spreading next to both of them.
Later, it turned out that the bomb had blown open the door of the house, and a lot of death-carrying shrapnel had spread across the country. They broke the windows, damaged the furniture in the house, left many holes in the outside wall, and worst of all, they disturbed the mother and her son.
The wife moaned piteously, said that she could not move from the place because she could not control her leg, and asked if Dima was healthy. And the boy was lying unconscious, a shrapnel stuck in his head, blood pooled from the wound on the floor.
Before the war, M.Us had attended special first aid courses, so he realized that Dima could not be moved – doctors had to be called.
The man rushed to the street to look for help, and because the explosion damaged the gas pipeline, a pungent smell of gas could be felt outside – a new explosion could occur.
The people met at the two nearest houses refused to help: they said that the bombing had not ended yet, so they would not go anywhere from their hiding places in the basement.
The two men who were interviewed at the third house were not afraid of danger – with their help, Yevgenija and Dima were taken to the hiding place and an ambulance was called.
Chernigov neurosurgeons operated on Dima, but a week later the boy died without regaining consciousness. Yevgenia was also operated on, but she needed additional procedures that could only be performed by Kiev doctors.
After the occupiers blew up the bridge over the Desna River and constant battles took place, it took only three weeks to get Yevgenia to Kiev via the surrounding roads. During that time, the injuries got complicated and 12 centimeters of bone had to be removed from one of the woman’s legs.
Having lost her son and fearing disability, Yevgenia went through depression, from which her husband’s optimism helped her get out. M.Us urged his wife to be happy that her leg did not have to be amputated, a metal implant will be inserted and she will be able to walk after a few more operations.
Yevgenija said that Maksim’s optimism, benevolence and openness impressed her at the beginning of their acquaintance, and now it helps her to heal and not break down. Athletes attending training with him also write about the friendliness radiated by M.Uso on Facebook.
Unbroken looks forward
Currently, Mr. Usas walks to work in a store every day in Kiev. He changes his wife’s bandages early in the morning and rushes to jogging after work.
“Losing a child is an indescribable pain, but I cannot cry next to my wife.
I have to be strong, because it’s even harder for her, she’s going through the death of her son more and she’s still suffering from pain in her leg,” admitted M.Usas.
The husband gave himself up because he was afraid to tell his wife that his son had died, but she, seeing his condition in the ward, understood everything by herself and hugged him for a long time without asking.
M.Us persuaded Yevgenija to change her profession: both of them study information technology remotely every day so that they can work in this field later.
“I am inspired by the fact that I set goals and achieve them. After reading how one girl with a leg prosthesis completed a marathon, I decided to run even further – a hundred kilometers, and I did it,” said M.Us.
Finishing this distance in 11 hours. 39 minutes he is about to improve his achievement and run an even longer distance.
“I would like my example to inspire other disabled people, so that in the future I no longer have to run alone surrounded by healthy people.” I dream of breaking into the Ukrainian national team so that I can participate in international competitions,” said M.Usas.
He started running after learning from doctors that sports would help stabilize his illnesses.
And he decided not only to move, but set himself the task of competing with the healthy and beating them.
“While playing sports, I meet interesting people, running helps me forget my problems, and when I return home next to my wife, I experience peace, I am happy,” said M.Us.
He hoped that his son would also like this sport and achieve good results.
“Forty days after Dima’s funeral, according to the Orthodox custom, I ordered a mass, went to the temporary cemetery of war victims, put flowers and his favorite cookies, chocolate cake on the grave. Suddenly, it started to drizzle from the clear sky. I look up and there is a small cloud. I thought: my nephew is talking to me in this way, I cried, but then I calmed down and told that my mother is recovering, that she is waiting for another operation, that they gave us a temporary apartment, and I got a job. I told my son everything, and then the cloud dissipated and became clear again,” Maksimas said with sadness.
The father who lost his son added: “They say that children killed in the war turn into little angels, I believe it – in my dreams I often see our Dima high in the sky.
In the first days he was gloomy, it was painful for him to leave us, and now I see Dima smiling and happy.”
The Ukrainian not only did not break down after the family tragedy: on Facebook, he urges all compatriots not to be discouraged by the difficulties and losses caused by the war and to believe in the victory of their country. M. Usas sings about this in patriotic songs distributed on social networks.
“We humans can theoretically live peacefully, happily, without anger and killing. Mankind can do a lot and be civilized, but something is wrong. Some people live according to God’s teachings and do good deeds, but some are engaged in harming and ruining the destinies of others. I do not understand such a plan of God – why is this suffering given?” – M.Us asks in his post on Facebook.
He said that he and his wife dream of buying their own apartment, and then they will adopt a girl and a boy – war orphans.