Teacher Mika Bosphore-Ward, who competes internationally for Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Figure Skating Club in adult competitions, has launched a crowdfunder to get the group of six Ukrainian skaters to the International Adult Competition in Obersdorf, next month.
The skaters, who were all living in either Kyiv or Kharkiv when the war broke out a month ago, have fled their homes – some to other parts of Ukraine, others abroad.
Working with other international adult skaters, Mr Bosphore-Ward, who skates at Fife ice arena in Kirkcaldy and is to compete at Obersdorf himself, plans to fund the skaters’ travel, put them up in accommodation and help pay for entry fees to the competition . The event, run by the International Skating Union and known as “Obi”, is the main competition in the adult figure skating calendar for skaters aged 28 and over.
He said: “Figure skating is a sport for all, something that can keep you fit and healthy throughout life. We are lucky to have a proper adult circuit with big international competitions where we meet and compete every year, helping us build lifelong friendships across the world. The Ukrainian team is an important part of our family. They are our friends, our sisters from another country.
“When war hit their beautiful land, we counted ourselves lucky our family survived. However, many had to flee for survival, with nothing but a passport in their hands. We all have seen and heard about the horrors of this awful, stupid war, but they lived through it. Our friends are the strongest people we know: they never complain, they remain optimistic and are thankful to simply be alive. This is just not right.”
He added: “This is our turn to show them how much they mean to us. We can help. They haven’t properly smiled or been happy for over a month now, and speaking to them, their main wish is to be reunited with their skating family, to share a beautiful passion and express themselves on ice. Oberstdorf, the biggest international adult competition, is coming up in May. Some of them could make the trip but they need our help.”
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The skaters – Olena Zlobintseva, Daria Yakovenko, Oksana Mazurko and Alyona Shevchenko from Kharkiv and Anastasia Olkhova and Valeriia Yas from Kyiv – hope to attend the competition on 23 May. Some have had to leave their skates behind in war-torn Ukraine and are working to have them sent in time for the competition – or source new ones.
Mr Bosphore-Ward, who has so far raised over £2,000 through his crowdfunder, said: “We hope they will all be reunited with their skates by then. It is difficult, as in some areas where they are from, women cannot go out into the streets, the risk is too great. Only people armed with guns and rifles can go out on the street, so one skater has had to get her keys to someone who is a policeman, who can then send them. It is awful.”
He added: “This Obi is not about scores, it doesn’t matter if they have been able to train. It is about them all being reunited with their skating family.”
Ms Yakovenko said: “Obersdorf is a very special place. I first entered this competition in 2016 and became part of this wonderful family. And when a month ago, I found myself sleeping on the metro platform in Kharkiv, it was my skating family who cared if I’m still alive, who kept talking to me so I didn’t get crazy living under the bombs.
“Coming to Obi this year is not only about sharing a passion for skating, but more about sharing the message of friendship, love and help.”
Mr Bosphore-Ward’s actions mirror those of world ice dance champion Gabriella Papadakis, who has been credited with helping Ukrainian Olympic ice dancers Oleksandra Nazarova and Maksym Nikitin attend the World Figure Skating Championships in France earlier this month. The couple qualified for the free dance final after skating in t-shirts in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. They had put together a new rhythm dance program set to music defining life in war-torn Ukraine, in just a few days after traveling from the country. They withdrew from the free dance final, saying they did not have time to choreograph a new routine and thought their original program was “inappropriate to dance it while people are dying and hiding in bases in our country”.
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