From the editors: Vladyslav Heraskevych is the first Ukrainian skeletonist and participant in the 2018 and 2022 Olympic Games.
I will start the story with the Olympic Games. Even before the beginning of the Olympics, it was known about the accumulation of Russian troops near our borders. At that moment, we decided that if the situation did not improve, we would make a call for peace.
During the Games, the situation became even worse, and after one of my visits, we held a peace action called “No war in Ukraine” to show the world that we do not want war. I, as an athlete, our team, and all Ukrainians are living in a peaceful state. Unfortunately, this did not help, and, after the Games, a full-scale war began.
Even at the Olympics, my action received a great response and resonance in the media, especially abroad. And in the first days after the Russian invasion, using these contacts, I tried to cover the situation and tell what was happening in Ukraine. At that time, there were no foreign media in Ukraine, the situation was unclear, and there was very little information in the foreign media. Then I tried to cover the war and beg for help from Ukraine.
At the same time, around February 27, we sent the first letter to the International Olympic and Paralympic Committee on the exclusion of Russians and Belarusians from international sports. I started talking about this with the international media.
My skeleton colleague, Katie Ulander, a skeletonist from America, also helped me a lot. She introduced me to the Global Athlete platform, through which we began to write the first letters about the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes.
In addition, we collected signatures of athletes from around the world and Ukraine. We understood that sport for Russia and Belarus is a very important tool for propaganda. Then we had to act very quickly because it was the period between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
We acted and made sure that Belarusian and Russian athletes did not take part in the Paralympics. It was the beginning of the wave of exclusion of Russia and Belarus from world sports at all levels, so this work was extremely important.
About two weeks later, media activity began to decline, and in our free time from the interview, we started volunteering. For the volunteer, we used our cars, which were used for sports earlier in the season. So we started delivering the humanitarian aid.
Of course, all this time, I kept in touch with all my acquaintances and friends who also began to volunteer and help on their own. Then we decided that we should unite and work as one team. So we founded our foundation (https://herofund.in.ua/ua/), and since March 24, we have been working as a team and trying to help.
During this one, we had a lot of scary but extremely important trips. We were in Chernihiv two days after its de-occupation and saw a huge number of horrors like the results of street fighting and air shelling.
Dmytro Tkachenko, vice-president of the bobsleigh and skeleton federation, has been in Chernihiv all this time. With his help, a volunteer headquarters was organized in the city, and, during the occupation, they provided a large number of people with everything they needed (4.5 thousand people), delivering aid even under fire. When the city’s water supply was cut off, they traveled and collected large tubs of water and delivered it to the people.
Unbelievable, but in the days of the occupation, volunteers even found a way to deliver the humanitarian aid to Chernihiv by boat. Of course, we went to him to help the volunteer center. Then we drove through the city and saw the results of the shelling. We were also at the Gagarin Stadium, which was completely destroyed.
I was very impressed by Irpin too. Some areas of the city were completely destroyed by shelling. Civilian cars were left on the road, and houses were simply razed to the ground and unfit for life or even reconstruction.
But most of all, in Irpen, I was impressed by people. There was a house that was hit by a tank, and people were living on the street for more than a month when we arrived. They had no gas, no heating, no electricity, and no water. These people found a well somewhere, and they cooked on the fire themselves. It was still quite cold at that time, sub-zero degrees Celsius at night. And even then, when we brought groceries, lunches, and bread, they did not take full assistance. They asked us to give it to give to those who need it more.
These people have hope for a bright future for Ukraine. They believe and say that everything will definitely be fine. It’s incredibly motivating. It is difficult to imagine what these people went through, but they do not lose hope for a happy future.
We also went to Mykolayiv. We were driving on a road 500 meters away from which there was shelling. Much of our aid is now directed to the East.
Of course, we need to filter requests and provide all necessary assistance. According to preliminary estimates, we have now transferred aid of about 600,000 hryvnias through our fund.
I am glad that the fund and I have the opportunity to contribute to the victory of Ukraine.
In parallel with volunteer work, we continue to block the participation of Belarusians and Russians in our sport through the International Skeleton Federation. Other athletes do the same, trying to ban the aggressor.
I am silent about how many Olympic rules these countries have violated. It isn’t right that when our country is at war and our Ukrainian athletes are dying, they [athletes from Russia and Belarus] still have the opportunity to perform in the international arena.
There is a website called Angels of Sport, where you can see a list of athletes who died during the war. It’s really scary to see because the list is very large. These are professional athletes who gave their lives defending Ukraine.
That’s why the participation of Russia and Belarus in any international competition is unacceptable. And we will do everything to achieve this [ban].