Ukraine Paralympic athletes are returning to their homeland after a triumphant campaign of Winter Paralympics in Beijing. However, they will not be welcomed with parade due to the current situation in the country that has been devastated by the bombings and airstrikes launched by Russia. Concerns have been raised as some athletes will not be able to reach their cities that have been wrecked with the brutal attack. But the Ukraine Paralympic athletes are coming forward with donations, volunteer work, and helping the war victims.
Ukraine Paralympic athletes want to help the war victims
The United Nations have estimated that more than 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine and the majority went to neighboring Poland — since Russia invaded more than two weeks ago. Amid the chaos, the Ukraine Paralympic athletes managed 25 podium finishes in biathlon and cross-country skiing events, including a team record of nine gold, as of Friday afternoon. They could add to the tally this weekend in cross-country skiing and relay events.
Previously, the country’s seven gold at the 2006 Turin Games had been its most successful Winter Paralympic outing. But while other competitors will head home with sights set on training for the 2026 Games, the Ukraine Paralympic athletes face life in a warzone.
Nine members of the team, including the head coach, are from heavily bombed Kharkiv — and it could be too dangerous to return to that city. Biathlon gold medallist Liudmyla Liashenko’s Kharkiv home was bombed earlier this week. After the closing ceremony on Sunday in Beijing, the team will fly to Istanbul and then have a few days rest in Warsaw before traveling by bus to Ukraine. International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said the team’s journey was an extraordinary sports story.
Grygorii Vovchynskyi, who won gold, silver and bronze in his men’s standing biathlon races and a bronze in a cross-country event and strives to lift the spirits of family and friends. He is desperate to be reunited with his 10-year-old daughter, who is staying in a village with his parents. He also plans to donate clothes and give shelter to people escaping the fighting.
“The main task will be to do what I can to help Ukraine. I want to help my friends who are in the cities where there is a lot of fighting, in places where there is a need for humanitarian aid,” he said.