James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica, visits Ukrainian soldiers at Vail Health | VailDaily.com

James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica, visits Ukrainian soldiers at Vail Health

Igor Voinyi poses for a picture with legendary Metallica frontman James Hetfield.
Courtesy photo
Limbs for Liberty’s next event
  • What: 5K Run/Walk for Ukraine
  • When: May 20
  • Where: Denver
  • Cost: $40, benefits Limbs for Liberty
  • More info/to register: 970-390-9145 or RunColfax.org

When you’re in the emergency room, any surprise visitor is a welcome sight. But when it’s James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica, then, really, “Nothing Else Matters,” at least for the moment.

On May 11, Roman Denysiuk, a Ukrainian soldier brought to the Vail Valley for medical treatment through the assistance of locally-founded nonprofit Limbs for Liberty, tripped on ridged carpeting getting out of his wheelchair, landing on his previously broken femur, which had a plate in it. He suffered another fracture, but the silver lining was that his initial fracture wasn’t healing properly, causing issues with fitting his prosthetic. The plate had a broken screw in it, so surgeons removed the plate and screws and replaced it with a rod.

While he was recovering at Vail Health Hospital, Kelli Rohrig, co-founder of Limbs for Liberty, visited him. As she got out of her car, a man walked toward his truck and said, “Good morning.” Turns out it was none other than Hetfield. She immediately explained Denysiuk’s situation and asked him to pay a visit to the soldier.

Hetfield obliged, and, after meeting Denysiuk and Igor Voinyi, Hetfield left a sticky note on Rohrig’s car saying, “You made my day.”

But Hetfield really made Denysiuk and Voinyi’s day when he showed up in Denysiuk’s room.

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“Metallica’s songs are very popular in Ukraine,” said Olga Milinan, who translated for the men. “Growing up, we all listened to them and dreamed of seeing them.”

In fact, when Denysiuk and Voinyi were asked if they knew who Metallica was, they just rolled their eyes, as if to say, “Does this lady think we live under a rock?” Their verbal answer: “Yes, of course.”

In his short visit, Hetfield “wished the men luck and get better soon,” Milinan said.

“It was unexpected,” Voinyi said. “I didn’t even believe it at the first moment that it was him. It was very short, but it was a very warm meeting. It would be nice to meet him at a campfire and have a drink, instead of the hospital.”

Another musical coincidence revolving around Ukraine — and a 14-year-old Ukrainian boy, Sasha, whom the Rohrigs met during their November trip to the country — came in the form of a music video Imagine Dragons released May 10 for their song “Crushed.”

The video follows Sasha, who endured five months of shelling in his town, according to an Imagine Dragons tweet, which calls for donations, after going on to say: “Sasha’s story is heartbreaking, and there are thousands more like him who desperately need help. Even today, his family is without electricity and other basic utilities.”

The Rohrigs met Sasha when he was scouting for landmines in his village. They also visited the school featured in the Imagine Dragons video (shown with debris scattered about), as well as the bomb hole in the village. As the video follows Sasha and his war-torn village, you hear, and see, the lyrics: “I can feel, I can feel too much, and I wish they’d go away, go away because it’s crushing me…”

Through subtitles, the moving video talks about how Sasha survived the shelling by hiding underground in a bunker, but his neighbors perished, and Sasha and his family lost everything. He still lives in the village, as some people rebuild, starting with one house, then building more, in hopes villagers will move back home, Rohrig said.

“It represents, ‘This is what villages look like after Russians come through with a massive battalion of tanks and armored vehicles. The entire thing is flattened,” she said. “Between James Hatfield (visiting) and Imagine Dragons (releasing the video), it exemplifies how we are such a small planet. We are all connected, and we need to remember that.”

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