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Wimbledon: Ukraine clash puts focus beyond tennis

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However, for the Ukrainians competing in SW19, the war never really leaves them.

On Wednesday, Anhelina Kalinina will face Lesia Tsurenko in a second-round match between all Ukrainians hoping to draw attention to their country’s plight.

Since Russia began its war in Ukraine in February, millions of refugees have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, and for Kalinina, her family is among those uprooted.
She confirmed to reporters on Monday that her parents’ home in the Kyiv suburb of Irpin had been bombed, saying “they are alive, they are safe” but “living out of bags and praying every day.”

“There are huge holes in the house, like huge holes,” she said, before revealing that the family now lived with her and her husband.

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“It is a very small apartment for my family, because my mom, my dad, my brother and they have pets.

“They are very happy and we are thankful … that they have a place to move from the city of Irpin because Irpin is totally bombed.”

Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina on a 'mission' to help a war-torn country

“I am helping my grandmother and grandfather a lot who are now in occupied territory,” he added.

“They can’t leave. So there are Russian soldiers next to them with all their military equipment.”

After Kalinina defeated Anna Bondar 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the first round, she raised £78,000 ($96,000) to help support her family. A second round win would see a total of £120,000 ($147,000).

“I understand that it’s hard to concentrate, but it matters to me whether I win or lose,” Kalinina said.

“If you go further, you make more money. So I can help, and I’m helping as much as I can and not just my family. So for me, that’s important.”

‘We still have war and we need your help’

His opponent on Wednesday, Tsurenko, has been working with a psychologist to overcome the trauma caused by the war.

While Tsurenko’s mother continues to reside in southern Ukraine, her sister now lives in Italy near her after living through three months of war in Ukraine.

“I don’t feel well,” he told reporters. “I feel very worried, especially because I know that they are trying to remove the only object, which is 100 meters from my house, from the building where I live.

“When the war started, I started to feel this tension inside of me… This feeling, this tension will only be released when the war is over. There is nothing I can do about it.”

At previous Grand Slams this year, Tsurenko faced the eventual tournament champion in the first round: Ashleigh Barty at the Australian Open and Iga Swiatek at the French Open.

Tsurenko reached the US Open quarterfinals in 2018.

At Wimbledon, however, Tsurenko was given a more favorable first-round opponent and dispatched Britain’s Jodie Burridge in a 6-2 6-2 victory.

Like Kalinina, her motivation to keep playing tennis comes from using her platform to help her country.

“I think that with all the athletes who can participate in the competitions, also with all the singers who go to Poland, to Germany, and having all the concerts, that part where the Ukrainians can just go and remind the whole world that we are here, we still have a war and we need your help,” he said.

“This is the main thing I would like to see happen, that we get a lot of heavy weapons. We just want to remind [people] that Ukraine is in trouble and we need help.

On the same day as Tsurenko’s first match at Wimbledon, the war came off the front line once again when a Russian airstrike hit a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, killing at least 18 people.

The tennis player said that the most difficult part for her was that she met people on the front line.

“The Russians have taken a guy, so we don’t know what’s wrong with him,” he said.

“We know he’s alive. Two more guys are fighting there right now, and some people are already dead from the war.”

On Monday, the two players had not decided how to honor their home country during their match.

“It’s great that two of us are meeting in the second round, so it will be a Ukrainian in the third round,” he continued.

Tsurenko said that, if allowed, he would wear a Ukrainian headband on his equipment.

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