The Hague, Netherlands ( Associated Press) — Until a few days ago, Volodymyr Musayk was on the front lines defending Ukraine from Russia’s devastating attack on his country. Now he is preparing to take bow and arrow in the Invictus Games archery competition.
The sporting event for active service personnel and veterans who are sick, injured or injured opens Saturday and ends on April 22 in the Dutch city that calls itself a global center for peace and justice.
Those concepts seem a world away for Ukraine’s team of 19 athletes and their supporters as they settle in The Hague for the Games.
“I think emotionally it’s something that needs time … because we come from a very disturbed area because we come from areas where real killings are happening every day, shelling, bombing, We hear sirens every day,” said Oksana Horbach, Ukraine’s Invictus Games national coordinator.
One of the team, Taira Pievska, still could not travel after being taken hostage by the Russian military in Mariupol, where she worked as a paramedic, Horbach said.
Organizers of the Invictus Games said on their website that four Ukrainians who were not due to participate in the Games but were in the worldwide community of wounded soldiers and women in March, two on active duty and two were killed in rocket attacks.
Pavlo Kowalski, who has competed in rowing, archery, wheelchair basketball and possibly volleyball, said that as well as competing, he wants to spread the word about the harsh realities of war in his homeland.
Traveling to the Games gives the 31-year-old a “better opportunity to tell, to inform the spectators, our friends, our new acquaintances, just fellow athletes, what is happening now,” he said.
Ukrainian Minister for Veterans Affairs Yulia Laputina agreed that the contestants decided to participate as a way of spreading the word.
“They wanted to be with their country, their people, but understanding the role of sports ambassador in international relations they … decide to participate and it was a difficult decision for them,” she said.
Members of the Ukrainian team attended a reception on Friday evening with great enthusiasm, which also included Britain’s Prince Harry – whose brainchild – and his wife Meghan.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky urged the team via a video link after their arrival on Thursday.
“Victory is important to us, it is important to prove that we are all invincible. And your team is part of Ukraine, the people of Ukraine and the indomitable spirit of each of us,” he told the participants.
Ukrainians are among the 500 competitors from 20 countries participating in the Invictus Games. Russia has never participated in the previous Games and does not have a team in The Hague.
This year’s games were twice delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The first edition of the Games was held in London in 2014, followed by Orlando in 2016, Toronto in 2017 and Sydney in 2018.
Service personnel compete in athletics, archery, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby, as well as in a driving challenge organized by carmaker Jaguar Land Rover, one of the event’s official partners.
For Ukrainians, the game is a brief respite from the grim realities of life in times of war and an opportunity to highlight the plight of their nation.
“Death, destruction, rape, everything, it’s something that my competitors and team staff members experience every day.” “So it needs to be heard, it needs to be told. It’s very important to us, as Ukrainians, to have a platform to voice who we are, what we do and since February 24th we What do you experience every day, “when the Russian invasion began.
Musayk, who has suffered an injury from a mine explosion, is competing in other competitions, including archery, but has to prepare without his coach Dimitro Sidoruk, who is killed in battle.
“On the eve of our departure, he died,” said Musik. “Whether military or civilian, every loss to us, especially when our children are killed, when civilians are killed, when women are killed, is an irreparable loss.”
And while Musik is competing in The Hague, his mind is elsewhere.
“We are here only for the second day, we have come here from the front line and as of now, I am mentally in arms with my brothers,” he said. “After the end of the competition, we return to the front lines to defend our country.”
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