Conflicts & War

The Ukrainian junior paralympic swimmers stranded in Turkey

Istanbul, Apr 27 (EFE).- A swimming team of disabled Ukrainian children in Istanbul, where they have been stranded for the past 10 weeks since Russia’s invasion began, is focusing on their training regime to keep their minds off the horrors of the war and their families’ plight back home.

They arrived in the Turkish city on 17 February for a two-week training camp ahead of the Ukrainian national championship, but Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine a week later has prevented them from returning home.

“It’s a strange feeling, you can’t go home,” swimmer Kyrylo Garashchenko tells Efe.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, you don’t know where your parents and friends are, what’s wrong with them… This is hard on the mind, we’re exhausted,” he adds.

The 24-year-old visually impaired swimmer, who won silver and bronze at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, is preparing for the world championships in June in Portugal.

Garashchenko is the only experienced athlete on the team since the other six are adolescents who are just beginning their competitive careers.

This is the third training camp for this team of Ukrainians in Turkey, a favored destination for numerous sports clubs from Ukraine and Russia as it provides an escape from the harsh winter back home.

But this time the athletes, who all hail from the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhya, have no idea when they will be able to return home.

First, the team stayed in Silivri, a district on the western outskirts of Istanbul, but in mid-March they moved to Kasimpasa, a low income neighborhood in the heart of Istanbul.

The Turkish Super League club Kasimpasa FC is putting the seven athletes and their three coaches up in their sports facilities and providing three meals a day.

The local authorities have made the municipal swimming pool available to the swimmers for four training sessions a week.

It’s not an Olympic pool, but the size doesn’t bother Garashchenko.

“The thing is that there are not many free sessions; here we can only train four times a week, much less than we used to do in Ukraine.”

For now, while the war shows no signs of ending, Garashchenko has no choice but to focus on the Portugal competition in June and keep his mind off the tragic events unfolding in his homeland. EFE


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