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Boxer with multiple world champion belts and star of the noble art beyond the borders of his country, Vasiliy Lomashenko also remains a man committed to freedom and the love of his beloved country, but scarred by a conflict that has lasted for almost a year now: Ukraine. Ambassador of his country internationally, the native of Bihorod-Dnistovsky, near Odessa, never lowers his guard on his principles and, despite his status, had decided to join the Territorial Defense Forces of his country for several months , putting his career in the rings on hold to defend the land of his ancestors until the end of the summer. Portrait of a man whose freedom is pegged to the body.
From our correspondent in New York,
New York, October 30, 2022. Madison Square Garden. After a fight of rare intensity, Vasiliy Lomashenko, face swollen by a Jamaine Ortiz who pushed him to his last entrenchments, raises his fist in the sky, Ukrainian flag on his back. The image resonates as a whole symbol for the Ukrainian people, who see one of their idols bring a little balm to the heart of a population under the vice of Russian attacks. ” When the judges decided on my victory, I felt an enormous joy, rare, liberating, unique, a feeling that I had never experienced before, because I had a heavy heart “, he specifies. ” I wanted to bring a moment of joy to my compatriots, even if it was only the time of a fight. » But « Loma » knows very well that this evening full of success is only a small parenthesis, because the fight of his life is much bigger than those he realizes on the rings: the fight for freedom. And his commitment to the Ukrainian armed forces in the east of the country between March and August is proof that he is much more than an athlete.
While Russia decides to invade Ukraine on February 24, Vasiliy Lomashenko is in Greece, after a fruitful year 2021 and yet another WBO world belt acquired after a victory over Ghanaian Richard Commey in December. The boxer is stunned by the news. ” I received the news like a huge stab in the heart, it was really a very difficult day to live “, he underlines. And to add: The children were crying, my wife was panicking, and I was trying to reach my family back home to find out if everyone was safe. It’s the kind of day you never forget. »
But the boxer recovers his thoughts after a few hours, and calls his agent, Egis Klimas, to tell him that he wants to return to the country, and help his compatriots to defend their land. ” I knew he didn’t want to sit idly by and wanted to go home even before he called meremembers Klimas. He asked me to find a way for him to get to Ukraine as soon as possible, knowing that all flights were suspended and a mass exodus was beginning. I had to find a way for him to return home and join the cause to defend his country. »
The fight scheduled for May against the Australian George Kambosos is canceled, and Lomashenko joins Bucharest on February 26, then Ukraine by bus, in the midst of several of his compatriots wanting to return to the country to defend their nation. ” During this trip, I exchanged with them, and the attachment to our homeland and our freedom was so strong. We have always done everything to be a nation where freedom is the keystone of democracy, and we must do everything to defend it. We arrived in kyiv so excited to defend our lands, almost driven by a sense of invincibility linked to our deep commitment to freedom. “, he recalls.
The gloves put aside, make way for the trellis
The boxer joins the capital and exchanges with two other legends of the discipline, the brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, who decide to volunteer in kyiv, of which Vitali is the mayor. Lomashenko decided to join the Territorial Defense Forces of Ukraine in his hometown of Bihorod-Dnistovsky, near Odessa. Military outfits become his daily life. ” I was in a patrol that took care of the outskirts of my city, and we exchanged a lot in order to reassure people, to give advice in the event of bombardments. “, he specifies, adding that “ the mission was crucial, because people were afraid, didn’t know how to react, because they were in constant fear of an advance by the Russian army or possible abuses. We told them that we had to always remain united and united in the fight for our freedom. ». In the midst of his compatriots, “Loma” is one more man, and even if all his trophies, his medals remain in the locker room, the local population sees in him a perfect example of patriotism and defense of the freedom of this region coveted by Vladimir Putin’s army.
Vasiliy goes through the end of winter, then spring, and a large part of summer, always with the same involvement and the desire to help his family, without flinching. ” It was a constant struggle, and those months in the Territorial Defense Forces changed me. I experienced something intense, which you don’t wish on anyone, even your worst enemy, because living under the permanent fear of military attacks is not the life you want. . We just want to be free and happy “, specifies the champion. On August 23, he was authorized to leave his post and returned to Los Angeles, where he had been living for part of the year since 2019, in order to resume competition in view of his fight last October, for a new crown. world.
But Lomashenko admits having struggled to return to a reality that has become different with a conflict that is still just as intense 18,000 kilometers away. He trains hard, but his mind is always on his country, which is fighting back against the ever stronger attacks of the Russian army. ” During the first weeks of my return to the United States, I was tormented and I did not know if I had made the right choice to leave my country. But my mission was also to show the world that Ukraine is still very much alive, and that I had to be in the rings to give even more voice to the defenders of our freedoms. My initial doubts turned into additional motivation “, he admits. Lomashenko defeated, two months later, Ortiz in a Madison Square Garden in fusion, where the Ukrainian flags flutter in number in the bays. At the end of the fight, he dedicates his success to his people, and opens his heart, like a declaration of love for freedom, using a quote from Taras Shevchenko, a 19th century Ukrainian author whose texts still resonate today. today more than ever, as a hymn to the struggle against the oppressor: ” We want justice, and with our collective strength, we will always achieve and defend freedom. »