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“This Is The Third War Of My Life, I’m Still Only 35″ Pathetic Scenes In Ukraine As Player Runs For Shield With Pregnant Wife

Written By Jacobs Dunga 

The aftermath of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been terribly telling on football stars in the different Ukrainian cities with some narrating their ordeals.

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A few players and coaches from the Ukrainian football league have narrated their bitter experiences so far at the ongoing invasion of Russia on Ukraine where hundreds of lives have been lost and several other hundreds left seriously injured.


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Some footballers from Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv have joined forces with the military to help see out the war in their country while earlier this week, two footballers were reportedly shot dead while defending their territories against invaders.

Nick Ames and Larisa Kalik held interviews with some players and coaches from the professional league in the country and their stories might just get you emotional.

Inhulets Petrove assistant coach, Mladen Bartulovic explains: “Ukraine is my second home: I came here from Croatia in 2006 at the age of 19, married a Ukrainian, had a daughter here and have lived happily in Dnipro. I love this country so much. What we are experiencing now is like some kind of terrible dream.

“At 2am last Thursday morning our squad arrived at a hotel in Kyiv: we had been at a training camp and flew there because we were supposed to be playing Dinamo Kyiv. At 4am we heard of the first bombings and were shocked. No one believed Putin would do this at night, while people were sleeping.

Most of us left on the club bus, driving to our training base near Dnipro. Some of the guys stayed in Kyiv, or went elsewhere to their families, and the foreign players managed to leave the country. I went to our camp and then back to the family home. My wife had sent me details about bombings at Dnipro airport and a military base, not far from where we live. It was crazy, indescribable.

“Since then, we have been lucky. Initially there was panic in the city: people buying all the petrol, pharmacy products and other goods they could. But in the last few days things have been OK, and we have all we need for now. Sometimes there are sirens, but nothing ends up happening. People worry when it happens, but it makes them ready to mobilise and fight for their country.

“I keep in touch with our players and other coaches every day, and with colleagues all across Ukraine. We are not concerned about football or training: we want to stop the war before coming back to the game we love. Nobody at the club has joined the army yet but you never know what will happen in the future. Perhaps if we are needed, we will go.

“I think our club will be OK: it’s a young, ambitious club and the president is committed to supporting us. But many clubs in Ukraine could go bankrupt or fold after this war. Football will be far down the list of priorities as the country rebuilds.

This is the third war of my life; I am still only 35. I was five when the Yugoslavian war began, and still feel the impact on my family. I was here in Ukraine when war began in the Donbas in 2014. Now we are going through this. When I think about it too much, I just don’t know what to say.”

Meanwhile…

Nika Sitchinava of Kolos Kovalivka tells his experience with his child and pregnant wife as the country fights against Russia’s oppression.

“On the day the war began, I was in Kyiv with my family. I have been injured recently, so could not train with the team. At 5am my young son awoke, and my wife got up to calm him. Then we heard the explosions, one after the other. We thought there had been an accident, but then we read online that the war had begun. We quickly began to gather our belongings. I am Georgian, and was in Georgia in 2008 when Russia attacked our country, so this is not the first time I’ve been through a war. I told my wife: “Let’s get ready more quickly.” I drove the car closer to our house, loaded it with things and then waited for a couple of my teammates. They are foreigners and also have young families. We drove away from Kyiv together.

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“The cities of Zhytomyr and Bila Tserkva, which are being bombed, are not far away. Another nearby city, Vasylkiv was bombed non-stop for three or four days. Only the sounds of the explosions reach us, lighting up the sky at night. We have gone to a village a safe distance away, and at the moment we are calm.

“On the way, we stopped at the shops. There are children with us who need artificial nutrition. In the village there is only one open store: the adults buy food, while parents have stocked up on enough mixtures for the kids.

Almost all of the Kolos players are gathered here now. Everyone wanted to stay, but every day one or two people have left. Those who remain have nowhere to go; if they were to go anywhere then it would only be to places where the Russians shoot and bomb.

“It is hard to leave the country: there are checkpoints on the highways and queues everywhere. If you do not manage to reach a town where it is safe to spend the night then it will be dangerous to go out after 5pm because we have a curfew under martial law. If you look suspicious, you could be shot. They are trying to purge Russian saboteurs from our cities, so we are advised not to move around.

“We are far from the border and cannot take risks: my wife is pregnant and many of the others have small children. I am still here and those who are with me will also stay. We hope everything will calm down and be all right.

“We are all sticking together: the players, our families and other people who accompanied us. We sit together in the bunker, we eat together, we spend the difficult moments together. As long as there are no problems with food or water, we must not complain.

“There are others in worse situations: in Chernihiv, my parents and my in-laws are constantly being threatened by shells.

The help we are getting comes from the president of Kolos and other club employees. They call, give us information, make sure we can eat and drink. We try to get food from the store ourselves but most of our assistance comes from the club president. He is close to us, and we to him; he is worried and has not gone anywhere. We know he is with us.”

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