Strong man Dmytro Khaladzhi was born in Komsomolsk, Donetsk oblast. When he was four a tragedy happened: a kettle of boiling water spilt over him. Thirty five percent of his skin was burnt, muscles atrophied, he had to learn how to walk again. The little boy endured seven surgeries and 12 blood transfusions. “The treatment was long lasting and exhausting. At that time my grandmother taught me to read and together we read a book of Russian epic, and the first tale was about Ilia Muromets. I was amazed at the fact that he, just like me, spent a long time being sick,” remembered Khaladzhi. Who would have thought back then that 20 years later Dmytro would unbend horseshoes and would drive nails in the wood with his hands?
Khaladzhi is strong not only physically. “I call him ‘a walking encyclopedia of bogatyr knowledge.’ He has a very serious library at his home and lots of knowledge in his head,” said Oleksandr Lehenky, old friend of the bohatyr.
They met in 2005, when Khaladzhi performed “victory over Bibon” – an ancient Greek athlete who lifted stone slab weighing 143.5 kilograms in sixth century B.C. Khaladzhi did the same with a stone slab weighing 152 kilograms – he was the first one to do something like this in 2,500 years. A new record appeared in The Guinness Book of Records and the hero got the unofficial title of the strongest man on the planet.
Record holder reminds of the heroic deeds of the antique heroes not only with his actions, but also with his words: he writes historical stories about the great strong men of the past, including Fedor Besov, Yakub Chekhovsky, and Ivan Shemiakin. In 2010 “bogatyr” series of essays by Khaladzhi was awarded the “Golden Pen of Russia” – literary prize for Russian-speaking authors from around the world. The prize is awarded in Moscow, the participant countries include Australia, the United States, and even Ethiopia. “Unlike other authors, Dmytro did many heroic deeds on his own and when he tells about them in his stories he gives his own perspective and describes his own experience,” said Lehenky. Now the creative process is in its heat: “I have been writing about strong men from among ordinary people. Hopefully the book will be published by the end of May,” Khaladzhi shared about his plans.
Of course, the best gift for a strong man is a history book, still better if it’s an old edition, then the materials are of better quality. Also, according to Lehenky, Khaladzhi collects kettlebells and horseshoes. The strong man was pleased when he found out that The Day announced 2013 the year of Volodymyr Monomakh: “Unfortunately, such great true heroes, founders of the state of our nation are often forgotten and they should be honored in the first place.”
On website Vkontakte the athlete answers questions from his fans about how to eat right and exercise to recover from injuries. “Calm and real. Modest not according to his power,” Lehenky summed up our conversation about the hero.
Since 2012 Khaladzhi has been performing in the American circus Ringling Brothers. There the strongman has his own attraction – a performance that lasts for nearly half an hour. The work is intense in the United States: “In nine months I have visited 41 states. Circus performances are in great demand, there are a lot of injuries, the pace is frantic, people are burning with passion,” Khaladzhi shared his impressions.
Bogatyr has very few competitors: “American athletes are greatly jealous. I was offered citizenship and opportunity to live in Florida in return for 10-year contract but I refused. It is impossible for me to live there. Every day I saw homeland in my sleep and I felt like being in a golden cage there,” told the strong man.
After all, the crazy traveling and homesickness prevailed and Dmytro seriously injured his hand.
In early December Khaladzhi had a surgery in Ukraine, now he is recovering, the contract with the Americans was postponed until 2014.
While at home Khaladzhi does not waste any time: in spring or summer a film Ivan Syla directed by Viktor Andriienko will be released. The leading role of the once most powerful person on the planet – Ivan Firtsak was given to Khaladzhi. This will be the film debut of the strongman, where he will show off his power: “There are many stunts in the film performed ‘live,’ for example, lifting a cart with people on it on man’s shoulders and a stunt with moving a car. But the most difficult part was the banal bar lifting – it was in the beginning of film shooting when it was extremely hot outside,” remembered Khaladzhi.
The strongman enjoyed the process of film making: “I do not build castles in the air, this is the only film in my life so far but if there would be more offers I’d accept with pleasure.” The strongman already has plans to set a new record at the premiere of the film in Kyiv. In May he starts his tour across Ukraine with the big circus show from Lviv.
The athlete of the 21st century, unlike Ilia Muromets, does not have to defend the border with the club in his hands and fight “busurman hordes.” But for the good reputation of Ukraine Khaladzhi is the same kind of power as his legendary predecessors.