West Salem man who planned to join Ukraine war overcomes long COVID case, starts non-profit

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) – When we last spoke with former West Salem resident James Wisch two months ago, he told us he wanted to fight for his wife’s country.

When the war broke out, Wisch fled Kyiv with his wife.

Once she was safe, his plan was to head back to the capital to join the fight — until he couldn’t.

“When we spoke, I already had COVID,” Wisch said.

Wisch, who is fully vaccinated, says he thinks he contracted the virus while fleeing.

And his infection wasn’t brief.

“This was crazy-town,” Wisch said.

Wisch says his COVID infection turned into pneumonia, and then later, laryngitis, for nearly a month.

“The most I could speak was like (in a deep voice), ‘like this,” Wisch said. ‘”This is all I could talk for about 30 seconds,’ at a time.”

Wisch couldn’t join the fight, and is still in the village he fled to.

But he found another way to support Ukraine.

“Just sitting in bed all day getting angrier and angrier, I had to do something,” Wisch said.

Wisch started a non-profit that accepts donations for Ukrainian soldiers and refugees.

Angels UA collects medical supplies, bullet proof vests, and money.

Wisch says the team also wants to find ways for Americans to send guns to Ukraine.

“There are six volunteers to the Army for every single gun here in Ukraine,” Wisch said. “We need guns.”

But Wisch’s goal is still the same as before he fell ill — to join the fight.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Wisch said.

Hoping to help in any way he can.

Wisch says he signed up with several Ukrainian military forces and is waiting to get called up.

If he does get called up, he says he will most likely go somewhere south in the country where the most intense fighting is taking place.