Born on September 8, 1982, in Ukraine, Igor Vovkovinskiy arrived in the U.S. as a child in 1989 to seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
Igor Vovkovinskiy, once the tallest man in the United States, tragically passed away recently. Vovkovinskiy's mother Svetlana Vovkovinska shared the heartbreaking news via an emotional post on Facebook. "Igor died on August 20 at 22:17 pm in hospital from heart disease," she wrote in the post alongside a tear-jerking picture of herself hugging the 7 feet, 8 inches-tall man. "He and his older brother Oleh were with him until the end. His last dinner was: a piece of Kyiv cake and Fanta," continued Svetlana as she spoke of her son who died at the age of 38.
"A few hours before his death, he was accompanied by Oleh's wife Alla and children," shared the grieving mother according to PEOPLE. "Igor was glad to see them, and although it was difficult for him to speak, he tried to joke about his nephew Andriy, whether he had learned the Ukrainian language in a month in Ukraine." Born on September 8, 1982, in Bar, Ukraine, to Svetlana Vovkovinska and Oleksandr Ladan, Vovkovinskiy arrived in the U.S. as a child in 1989 to seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
Per the Associated Press, there was a tumor pressing against his pituitary gland which ended up secreting abnormal levels of growth hormone and resulted in his unusual stature. Having grown 7 feet-8.33 inches (2 meters, 34.5 centimeters), Vovkovinskiy became the tallest man in the U.S. and ended up staying in Rochester. Back in Ukraine, he was as much a celebrity as in the U.S. for his size. Speaking to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Vovkovinskiy's older brother Oleh Ladan of Brooklyn Park revealed that although the 38-year-old was celebrated in Ukraine during the late 1980s, he "would have rather lived a normal life than be known."
Soon he began grabbing the attention of millions around the world, including that of former POTUS Barack Obama. In 2009, he appeared during one of Obama's campaign rally wearing a T-shirt that read "World's Biggest Obama Supporter." He was 27 when Vovkovinskiy was declared the tallest living man in the country by a Guinness World Records representative on the Dr. Oz Show, according to USA Today. "It feels good to finally have proof that I am the Tallest Man in America," he said during a 2010 press release. "Everyone is always asking me if I'm certain that I'm the tallest and I was never able to prove it. Now that I have this certificate to hang on my wall, I could finally show it!"
Vovkovinskiy wore a size 26, 10E shoe, and required a custom-made pair. However, the specially made shoes would cost him around $16,000 and help him avoid the crippling pain that he usually felt. Unable to come up with the huge amount, Vovkovinskiy made a public plea to raise money in 2012. Thousands of people ended up donating to the cause and raised double the amount of what he needed. Later Reebok created the custom shoes and donated them to Vovkovinskiy. In 2013, he appeared on the sets of the Eurovision Song Contest where he carried the Ukrainian contestant onto the stage to perform.
The tallest man "enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, occasional fishing and traveling, and helping the Ukrainian Army in any way he could," according to his obituary.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by Genevieve Ross