– It is impossible to put into words how difficult it was, because all our relatives and friends remain in Ukraine. We are very worried about them, the two sisters told NRK.
Olena and Julia Horodna were among the lucky people who managed to escape the invasion of Vladimir Putin.
On February 24, when war broke out, they were in a training camp at his home in Ukraine.
– Shortly after, our parents decided to send us to Poland and to a safe place.
Elite team must withdraw
Now they spend all their time and energy monitoring the situation in their home country, hoping that their loved ones will survive that meaningless war.
But next week they will have to think about something else – at least for the time being. Then they both will debut at the World Cup in biathlon.
It happened with mixed feelings.
– We apologize that the elite team cannot participate, but vI hope that we will be well received, because many biathletes support Ukraine, says Olena.
Ukraine’s entire elite national team and support staff have been withdrawn from the World Cup because of the war. From fighting for Olympic medals in Beijing two weeks ago, they are now battling for survival in their home country and against Putin’s mounting attacks.
Dmytro Pidrushny, world champion from 2019, is among those who have signed up for the service.
“My team and I will stay in Ukraine to defend our homes and families from Russian armed forces,” Pidrushny told NRK on Tuesday.
Get help from a Norwegian coach
Julie (20) and Olena (17) will be the only representatives of Ukraine at the World Cup.
Having recently spent time in Poland, with no family or other acquaintances, the International Biathlon Federation (IBU) and the Ukrainian Federation have teamed up to get them to Otepäa next week.
– I think everyone is standing up for this as an act of solidarity. Vwe will do everything we can to support them. They get help from the Czech team for lubrication and all practicality because they don’t have staff around them, explains IBU President Olle Dahlin.
Norwegian Egil Gjelland is the coach for the Czech Republic. He explained that the whole team was ready to accept Ukrainian runners and help as best they can.
– We will be as generous as we can and try to help them. These are two young runners who want to participate, and we help out with skiing and what we can. We accept them as full members of the team, said Gjelland.
More want to contribute
Throughout this week, both runners, coaches and organizers at Kontiolahti have sent statements of support to Ukraine.
The video of the Ukrainian runner on the big screen, the Ukrainian flag and equipment colors and the words “No War Please” on the Norwegian runner’s headband are just a few of the highlights.
When Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen heard that two Ukrainian runners were about to start their next World Cup round, he lit up.
– This is absolutely fantastic news. This was a very good gesture by the IBU and the Czech Federation, he said and added that the Norwegian team also wanted to help:
– We have some equipment in Norway that we should try to ship. We must do something to support them.
Home dream meaning
No goals have been set for the two World Cup debutants from Ukraine.
For them, it’s about getting a break from bad thoughts and worries, and doing something that feels normal in an abnormal world.
– For days without exercise and without normal sleep, it’s hard to think and believe a good result, says Olena and continues:
– Our biggest dream now is that the war will end and we can go home.
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