IT was early one morning last summer when Stanislav took the step that changed his life.

One moment he was running forward under fire, throwing grenades into Russian trenches, the next he was lying sprawled on his back looking at a left leg he describes as resembling a “pizza with a base that was bone”.

Just minutes earlier he and the other Ukrainian soldiers in his unit from the 3rd Assault Brigade had advanced across a shattered landscape so devastated by shellfire that the trees had been stripped bare and looked like “sticks poking from ground holes”.

He remained fully conscious, he tells me, speaking of those split seconds that morning after stepping on the landmine that ripped off his leg leaving a wound that today he counts as “lucky” because it happened below the knee, making later rehabilitation easier.

The National: Ukrainian soldier Stanislav required a prosthetic after being injured in the warUkrainian soldier Stanislav required a prosthetic after being injured in the war

Lying in a shell hole alongside other casualties from his unit after the assault on the Russian frontline, he remembers pulling a tourniquet from his kit and one of his comrades helping him apply it above the wound.

So close were they to the Russian ­positions that Stanislav knew they must get out quickly so asked his comrade to shoulder lift him back toward their own line during which he remembers repeatedly warning his fellow soldier to watch out for signs of other landmines. Once out from under fire, Stanislav waited two hours in terrible pain before ­being ­evacuated to a field hospital for ­emergency treatment. His only thoughts he had during that time were survival and hoping that the pain would go away.

“We don’t use strong painkillers in such immediate situations because it can impair your mind and judgement and ­affect blood pressure,” he tells me, as I try to contemplate the unimaginable agony he must have endured at the time.

READ MORE: One refugee's journey from Ukraine to a new life in Scotland

Tall and thin with receding hair and dark moustache, Stanislav – or to, use his wartime call sign. “Guenon” after the French philosopher – is telling me his ­story in the physiotherapy room of the Bez ­Obmezhen (Without Limits) Rehabilitation And Prosthetic Centre in Kyiv.

As Stanislav recounts those terrible days 18 months ago on the war’s eastern frontline at Andriivka where he suffered his life-changing injury, around us are other men all missing one or both legs.

Each is putting themselves through specific exercise regimes, designed to ­improve their strength and mobility using the prosthetic limbs that are also made and fitted at the centre.

ACROSS Ukraine, rehabilitation centres like this one cater for the rapidly increasing number of badly wounded soldiers that the battlefields of this war are creating in horrifying numbers.

As this weekend marks the grim ­second anniversary of the Russian ­invasion on February 24, 2022, the ­Ukrainian ­government – as ever – doesn’t release ­figures about the death toll but there are funerals every day.

The National: 9 Creation of a plaster positive model for prosthetic ©David Pratt.

Almost every Ukrainian you speak with knows someone who has been killed or injured in the fighting. This is a ­country in perpetual mourning, and the sense of exhaustion from the war is palpable. Among those men and women serving on the frontlines, many haven’t had breaks for months at a time and haven’t seen their families.

Stanislav tells me that although he has lived in Kyiv for almost seven years, he is originally from the city of Mykolaiv that sits near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine.

His mother still lives there, the 30-year-old says, describing how in her backyard, unexploded Russian cluster munitions still lie menacingly after being dropped during an airstrike. I ask him when it was that his mother had found out he had been wounded.

“I just sent her a photograph and said it was a bad injury but I will recover and it will be a long time before I can walk again,” he explains, adding that he did not go into details about what happened that day on the battlefield.

READ MORE: Glasgow twinned with Ukrainian city two years after Russia invasion

His mother, he says, now feels he has given enough to the war and doesn’t ­approve of his intention to rejoin his unit albeit in a very different capacity. His younger brother, meanwhile, has since ­returned from neighbouring Poland to join the increasingly desperate fight for their country’s freedom

“I’d like to get back to my comrades, but obviously I can’t fight as before, but perhaps through other duties such as ­operating drones,” he tells me.

That ­determination to get back into the war is not uncommon among Ukrainian ­soldiers in an army that is now seriously hampered by a shortage of ­personnel.

Those men and women who come to the Without Limits centre are almost entirely war-wounded from the armed services who take great comfort by being among their own “kin”.

The centre’s director Andrii Ovchar­enko – a tall, broad-shouldered, fair-haired and bearded man whose looks would chime with the central ­casting ­notion of what passes for a “typical” Ukrainian – takes me on a tour of the ­centre’s prosthetic assembly ­operation that moves into gear whenever the ­demands of new patients require.

The National: 11 Prosthetics at rehabilitation gym ©David Pratt.

There was a time when a patient would be fitted almost immediately, but such is the rise in patients that sometimes a ­waiting time of 10 or so days is now not uncommon,

We begin our tour in a workshop where plaster casts are made of the residual limb to create a positive model that is altered using surform rasping tools and other techniques to achieve the desired shape and size.

From there, in another workshop, ­technicians heat and vacuum-form a transparent plastic sheet over the model then cut it off to form the test socket. The initial socket created is sometimes just a trial socket used to gauge the fit and it usually takes some back and forth ­adjustments to achieve the optimal fit for the patient’s prosthetic.

“The component parts for this come from many countries in Europe, the US and elsewhere,” Andrii tells me, showing one newly finished prosthetic leg. Each one costs about $1500 to make, he says.

READ MORE: I visited the airfield which triggered the war in Ukraine

“But what is $1500 when the true value is incalculable in its capacity to change a person’s life for the better?” He adds, as behind him technicians put the finishing touches to another batch of completed prosthetic legs.

“A person can come here, be fitted and the prosthetic made and they can leave the same day,” he explains, emphasising the incredible boost this can make to the morale and psychological mindset of a patient.

“Then of course the hard work of ­physical rehabilitation and learning to adapt to the prosthetic begins,” he ­continues.

Stanislav tells me that at first he could not come to the centre every day because of the pain as he adjusted to his new prosthetic but with patience and a slow build-up of exercise, he was soon coming several times a week.

The progress rates vary from ­person to person – some prefer swimming to build up strength, some even do martial arts ­exercises. An avid outdoorsman, ­Stanislav, now being able to move around with comparative ease, is looking ­forward to hikes in the forest and countryside around Kyiv in the near future.

The National: Andrii Ocvharenko is the director of a rehabilitation centre in UkraineAndrii Ocvharenko is the director of a rehabilitation centre in Ukraine

Today though along with some ­exercises in the physiotherapy gym, he is here for a refitting of his prosthetic socket. In a small room, the procedure is undertaken by another wounded soldier called ­Misha who like a few other former frontline fighters now works at the centre.

It was 20 days after his 20th ­birthday when Misha lost his left leg, he tells me, as he checks the fitting of Stanislav’s new socket.

It was back in 2019 before the current all-out war with the Russians when Ukraine’s conflict in the east of the country wasn’t making the headlines and its troops fought Moscow-backed Russian separatists that Misha was hit.

“At that time, it was known as the Joint Forces Operation and I went on a ­combat operation as part of a troop rotation,” ­Misha begins his story.

“I was hit by a VOG grenade, the ­shrapnel from which cut me up – both my legs and hand,” he says, speaking of the type of grenade that is fired from a launcher attached to an assault rifle.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf affirms support for Ukraine on second invasion anniversary

“There was shelling, and at that ­moment this “crazy” grenade as we call them, flew in from nowhere. I stood there, my eyes blacked out and I thought, “is that all, it’s still too early to die”.

He says that at the start of his service, he was, “young and hot-headed” and “wanted to fight,” but then “things all changed in a moment.”

Unlike Stanislav, Misha’s evacuation took place fairly quickly and he was brought to the eastern Ukrainian city of Chasiv Yar.

“I was brought there in a stable condition, but it was a very difficult period. I don’t remember anything. Three days. Then I came back to my senses, and I started talking,” he continues.

“On the fourth day, I was taken to Kyiv to the clinic of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and there they tried to save my leg. The professor came, they tried to save the foot. But it turned out that it had to be amputated because of sepsis.

There were additional injuries – the second leg was broken but now healthy. My arms were broken, dead nerves on the left hand. It was difficult to bring me to the point where I could already walk, stand, and start rehabilitation,” Misha recalls.

READ MORE: Lee Anderson has Tory whip suspended over Islamist comments

“I know the doctors tried to save the leg, but in the end, they had to amputate, so I have one left and it was the end of 2019, 10 days before the New Year, and by the New Year, I was already without a leg. It was very memorable,” he says wryly with a smile.

Misha’s subsequent rehabilitation was protracted and arduous.

“The main physical rehabilitation took a year, but it is still ongoing, rehabilitation cannot end at any stage,” he explains.

“There are different stages of rehabilitation. For example, I could sit down for the first time only after four months. I stood on the second leg, which was damaged, after eight months. Prosthetics process then began a year later and I learned to walk very quickly. And three months ­later, I received my permanent prosthesis. In all rehabilitation was long and ­difficult. About more than a year,” he recalls.

I put it to him that when I was talking to people at the Without Limits centre, the impression I got was of people very upbeat despite what they had undergone.

“As a person who lost a limb in the war, it is very easy for me to find a ­common ­language here, psychologically they ­perceive me more easily,” he says of ­working there.

But what about the psychological ­impact I ask?

“In terms of psychology, everyone is different. For me personally, it was not difficult psychologically. I was sort of ­prepared for what might happen to me as a soldier.” he answers.

Asking Stanislav a similar question, I wondered if he ever resented the fact that he had given so much in fighting for Ukraine while other men continue to go about normal business, to some extent ­removed from the dangers and ­consequences of the war.

“Yes, I sometimes get angry, and I think there will be wider resentment too in the future when the war is over, but I try not to think of others, and instead see it in terms of fighting for my inner ­country, our country in my thoughts and our ­future,” Stanislav admits.

As for Misha’s future, he stresses that his family is what matters.

“My family is with me, wife and son, we live here in Kyiv and our plans are to live and move forward, think what the ­future will bring, dream, and fulfil it. No-one has left me, they are here with me; my family is my permanent support.”

As I say my final goodbyes to everyone at Without Limits, I catch a last glimpse of the patients in the rehabilitation gym going through their exercise paces.

Among them again is Stanislav now with his newly fitted prosthetic. He is navigating with ease some obstacles ­designed to improve mobility laid out on the floor.

It’s a long way from that fateful step he took 18 months ago on the frontline at Andriivka, for these steps now are the ones to recovery and the positive healing of war’s terrible wounds.