Elina Svitolina, former third best player in the world, told AFP her hope of one day returning to her country and seeing her 80-year-old grandmother, trapped in Odessa since the start of the Russian invasion. In the meantime, she gets involved, at the head of an association. “I try to keep in touch with her and help her as much as I can. She was too old to leave“, explained the Ukrainian player, a week after her appointment as ambassador of United 24 alongside Andrei Shevchenko, Ballon d’Or 2004.
Created on the initiative of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 5, this association aims to raise funds to meet the needs generated by the war in Ukraine: defence, medical aid and reconstruction of the country, devastated since the launch of the offensive. Russian on February 24.
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“It is difficult for old people to find themselves in a new war… The lack of food, staying at home or in a cellar for days… It is extremely stressful and very hard mentally“, confessed the player who is the wife of Gaël Monfils and who is expecting their first child, whose birth is scheduled for October. Although she has not lived in Ukraine for years, Elina Svitolina is trying to go there three to four times a year and says: “I feel like home here“.
His parents and his brother were able to flee the country, but his uncle and grandmother remained in Odessa, a multicultural crossroads of one million inhabitants de facto controlled by Russian forces and isolated from the rest of the country. A distressing situation for the young woman and which takes precedence over her joy as a future mother. “Many of my friends returned to Ukraine and took up arms to defend the country“, confided the one who won 16 titles on the WTA circuit.
While her compatriot Sergiy Stakhovsky and Sheriff Tiraspol coach Yuriy Vernydub have joined the army, Elina Svitolina intends to bring her stone to the building. “So many people are struggling right now, that’s why I joined United24. We can do something to help all Ukrainians, servicemen and children in need“, she added.
Absent from Roland-Garros in June, Elina Svitolina has not played in competition since her elimination in the first round of the Miami tournament on March 24. The 2019 Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist recalled the importance of continuing to inform world public opinion about the conflict, after several months of war and no end in sight. “I have so much pain in me to see so many cities destroyed and how many people have lost their lives“. (With AFP)
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