When Tatyana Koltunyuk pictured her life post-retirement, she imagined walking around New York City with a new puppy and traveling the world with her family. She talked about swimming in the ocean every day, her family said.
But Ms. Koltunyuk’s vision for the future was irrevocably altered when she was bitten by a shark at Rockaway Beach in Queens last week. She was swimming alone near Beach 59th Street in the early evening when the shark bit her on the left leg, according to officials, and lifeguards responded when they heard her screaming for help.
Ms. Koltunyuk, 65, now has “a permanent disability,” and she is expected to need several years of intense physical therapy and medical monitoring, according to a statement that her daughter, Dasha Koltunyuk, and her son-in-law, Gregg Kallor, released on Thursday. They did not provide details on the nature of her disability.
In the eight days immediately following the attack — days that her family described as “nightmarish” on a GoFundMe page raising money for Ms. Koltunyuk’s recovery — Ms. Koltunyuk underwent five surgeries, and her family said she will require more.
The total extent of her injuries is not yet known, her family said, but she is expected to remain at the hospital for at least several more weeks. She was originally treated at Jamaica Hospital, but the family did not disclose whether she is still a patient there.
Ms. Koltunyuk’s family described her as a “fiercely intelligent and passionate woman” who is “limitless in the love and generosity she showers upon others.”
She moved to the United States from Odesa, Ukraine, in 1996 along with her husband and her daughter, then 3. Only a few weeks after arriving, her husband had a heart attack and died, her family said.
Ms. Koltunyuk, who lives in Queens, had worked as a marine engineer in Ukraine, but she wasn’t able to continue this work in the United States because her English was not fluent. Still, Ms. Koltunyuk’s family said she “worked tirelessly to support her family” and had various jobs, including as a bookkeeper and as a nanny.
“She worked a grueling life to ensure that I could thrive,” Dasha Koltunyuk said on the GoFundMe page, adding that her mother often took her to ballet and music lessons, art museums, theater performances and concerts.
The Rockaway Beach attack appeared to be the first confirmed shark bite in New York City in decades, but city officials said they were amping up efforts to monitor the city’s beaches using drones, boats and helicopters. The beach opened for swimming two days after the attack.