From boy to man
“We went into Lebanon as kids and came out as men. The fact that I almost lost my life has made me love life all over again.”
Vladimir Tokarev was born in Siberia and is an only child. He made Aliyah at the age of 15, leaving his family in Russia. He loved Israel long before he set foot on her soil. “My choice of Israel was motivated by Zionism,” he says.
In Russia, Vladimir was a long-distance competitive ice skater. When he came to Israel he continued training in Kiryat Shemona. He could easily have accepted the status of “Only Son” or “Excelling Athlete” and been given a safe job in the army, close to where he was training.
That was not Vladimir’s way. He chose to serve in a combat unit as a paratrooper. When he was called up to defend Israel in the Second Lebanon War (2006), he went with pride, but he was also “scared to death.”
In the height of battle, in the middle of a hostile village, Vladimir’s company commander was hit by a sniper.
“We came to rescue him, five of the most experienced fighters. We threw smoke grenades and created a smoke screen… we remained there to continue fighting. Some 30-40 missiles were launched at us…”
Then Vladimir was hit by a missile that landed just a meter away from him. He heard the explosion and felt as though he was being “blown in all directions.”
Knowing there were hostile forces all around him, and hearing the sounds of battle through a haze of pain only increased his suffering and fear as he waited to be rescued. It took an endless and agonizing eight hours for Vladimir to be evacuated.
“Eight hours of never-ending internal pain… yet, not one thought about dying crept into my mind. You want to live but feel so helpless… We went into Lebanon as kids and came out as men. The fact that I almost lost my life has made me love life all over again, ” he recalls.
Vladimir’s arm was crushed. Shrapnel penetrated his lower back and tore the entire width of his intestines.
He underwent seven hours of complicated surgery to repair his wounds, and spent many months in the hospital. Once discharged, Vladimir began his long road to recovery and started his rehabilitation treatments at Beit Halochem in Tel Aviv.
It has not been easy. In addition to the physical injuries Vladimir has endured, he suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and recurring nightmares of this horrific encounter.
Vladimir’s sheer determination, along with the help, understanding, companionship and support of the Beit Halochem staff and all the friends he has made there have empowered him during his rehabilitation. Now, while he continues his therapy and recovery activities at Beit Halochem, he also is studying Aeronautics and Space Engineering, Vladimir has found his way back to leading a full and productive life.