Oksana Bondarchuk was born in June 1989 in the Ukrainian city Khmelnytskyi. At her birth, the doctors were shocked when they saw that much of her legs were missing, her hands deformed, had no thumbs and nails and suffered from kidney problems. The most likely cause of genetic anomalies was the destruction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which had taken place three years earlier.
Oksana’s parents were terrified of the effects of the radioactivity on the normal development of their child. They felt unprepared and were terrified of the challenges of her care. Soon after she was born, the little girl was given at an orphanage. She never saw her parents again.
Over the next seven years at the orphanage, Oksana received bullying, physically and sexually abused. She lived in torturous childhood. The only thing that gave her strength was the faint hope that she would leave the orphanage and would be adopted in a nice home.
No one in the institution expected Oksana to be adopted. She was enrolled in the adoption system, but no one else believed she could be adopted. Then, there was a call from the other end of the world. Gay Masters, a speech therapist from the US Cincinnati, was on the other line. She had seen Oksana’s photo and somehow knew that this little girl was going to become her daughter.
Oksana was five years old when she met her future adoptive mother. But because of the Ukrainian legislation, it took two more years for her to be officially adopted. During this time, Oksana lived in fear that Gay would never again appear. But Gay did not leave her. She sent Oksana photos of her new home and took the necessary official documents.
Not only did the Orphanage officers wonder about Gay’s decision. Those who knew her at Cincinnati wondered why she was not adopting a “healthy” child. But Gay felt certain and her determination saved Oksana’s life. Oksana was almost eight years old when she finally traveled to the US. As a child she walked on her toes but her legs were becoming weaker and unable to withstand her weight. Her new family took care of her health.
Doctors have been able to reconstruct her hands, but they suggested her legs being mutilated in order to live a more normal life with prosthetic members. At the tender age of 9, she lost her left leg and a year later her right leg.
The risky operation took place and soon Oksana learned to move with her prosthetic members. Soon, she learned to ride a bike and discovered a sport that would soon become her great passion: rowing. She was trained hard and became so good that she entered the Paralympic Rowing Team in the US.
With Rob Jones’s athlete she won the 2012 bronze medal at the London Paralympic Games. The talent and the beauty of Oksana sparked the interest of the world and soon a magazine approached her for a naked photograph.
Oksana has nothing to hide anything anymore. Her body is strong, beautiful and can do everything.
Two years later, at the age of 25, she won the bronze and silver medal in skiing at the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games. The athlete has attracted the admiration of the world of sports and her story inspires many people around the world.
Oksana never left her painful childhood years to beat her. Today she is considered a national heroine in Ukraine. In 2015 she visited Ukrainian soldiers who were injured, as she visited an orphanage and spent time with orphans.