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Two Ukrainians at Wimbledon describe the horrors of war

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WIMBLEDON, England — If it’s possible to feel the horror of invasion and war from afar and in a pristine place, that possibility sprang up Monday from the purple and green gentility of Wimbledon’s tiny Interview Room No. 2. -Veteran player Lesia Tsurenko from Ukraine spoke at length about the upset mood and said the absence of Russian and Belarusian players here had given her some calm.

“It feels good to be in the tournament without having to see players from those countries again,” he said of Wimbledon’s ban on those nationalities here. “In most cases it is nothing personal. It’s just the situation where our countries are now in a war. So yeah, definitely for me it’s less stress and I feel better.”

She said: “I don’t feel good watching them because, as I’ve said before, it is, again, about me personally. I don’t know about other Ukrainian players, but I just heard from a Belarusian player who is supporting us, me and Ukraine, and who is against the war. I haven’t heard anyone other than him being against the war. So I don’t know his opinion on that, and not talking to me and not saying anything to me makes me feel bad and creates this tension inside of me.”

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Tsurenko, ranked No. 101 in the world and as high as 23rd in his long career, is playing his 36th Grand Slam tournament here, and the draw has screamed something strange. Having beaten Great Britain’s Jodie Burrage 6-2, 6-3 in a fair first-round match on one of the medium courts, No. 18, Tsurenko will somehow play for the first time on Wednesday against fellow Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina. , a 34th-ranked 25-year-old whose parents’ house has holes made by bombs.

“Yeah, I mean, thank God they’re alive, they’re safe,” Kalinina said from the same room about half an hour after Tsurenko. “But they live like many other Ukrainians, out of pockets, so you never know what is going to happen tomorrow because sometimes everything seems calm. But yesterday there were two rockets in Kyiv, in the center. Yes, they live off the bags and they pray every day.”

She said: “There are huge holes in the house, like huge holes… So now this house is being rebuilt so they can’t live there. So they live in my apartment where I live with my husband. It is a very small apartment for my family, because my mom and dad, my brother, and they have pets.”

“We all help each other as much as we can,” Tsurenko said, “but this is the feeling that all Ukrainians have. I also talked to my sister a lot, and she told me that probably if you just go out on the street and talk to a random person and say, ‘I need help,’ he’ll help you. It’s just the feeling of how united we feel now, all Ukrainians. So I think it’s great that two of us will meet in the second round, and that’s how a Ukrainian will be in the third round, for sure. I think he is good either way.”

He then thought of Wimbledon’s eternal rule of all-white clothing and told the Wimbledon official monitoring the press conference: “Can we wear the (Ukrainian) ribbon in the match?”

“I don’t know,” said the moderator. “I’ll check it out for you.”

“Yes, because today I wasn’t sure.”

“The main thing I would like to see happen,” he said shortly after, “that we get a lot of heavy weapons. You know, it’s just that we have to remember the fact that we are here and we are playing for my country, for Ukraine. We just want to remind that Ukraine is in trouble and we need help. I think so many appearances that we have, like in sports, for example, to me, it’s just another way to show that we’re a strong nation and remind the world that we’re here and we still have war and, I don’t know, somehow, we need aid. We still need help to win this war.”

Since the Russian invasion with the approval of Belarus on February 24, Tsurenko has played in Indian Wells (California), Miami, Marbella (Spain), Istanbul, the French Open in Paris and preparatory on grass courts in Birmingham and Eastbourne here. In England. . She has taken a base in Italy. Kalinina has gone from event to event and “hotel to hotel,” she said, after leaving Ukraine on February 17. Tsurenko withdrew from two matches, lost a walkover in another, reached the quarterfinals at Eastbourne and endured a tough first round. draw (No. 1 Iga Swiątek) in Paris. Kalinina has become the highest ranked player in Ukraine, rising from 52nd to 34th.

Tsurenko has noted a useful and grim detail.

“I feel like I just play better,” he said, “just because for me emotionally, for me emotionally, winning or losing doesn’t exist anymore. For me, there is a big problem in my life: it is war. And there is nothing else that can (distract from) this.”

As tennis fights Russia’s invasion, a Ukrainian player begs for mercy

She said: “I don’t feel well. I feel really worried, especially because I know that they (the Russians) are trying to get the only object, which is 100 meters from my house, from the building where I live (in Kyiv). So every time it’s like my area, my area of ​​the city where I live is bombed, so every time I think: I feel, yeah, I think when the war started, I start to feel this tension inside of me, and I think even if I work every day with a psychologist and try to, I don’t know, try to avoid these emotions anyway, it’s impossible. And I think this feeling of tension will only be released when the war is over.”

She said her sister had come to Italy and her mother had promised to join but, in the great tradition of stubborn mothers everywhere, “I don’t believe her.”

“For me,” Tsurenko said, “the hardest part now is that so many people I know are on the front lines now. The Russians took a guy, so we don’t know what’s wrong with him. We know he is alive. Two more guys are fighting there right now, and some people have already died from the war, yes.”

“I am helping my family a lot,” Kalinina said. “I am helping my grandmother and grandfather a lot who are now in occupied territory. They can’t leave. So next door there are Russian soldiers with all their military equipment… I’m not a superstar, so I help with what I can. And it’s a lot for them, and for me that’s a great motivation to play. Enormous.”

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