Invictus Games offers Ukrainian competitors a break from the war

Ukrainians who only days ago were on the front line defending their country against Russian forces are preparing to compete in the Invictus Games.

Volodymyr Musyak prepares to pick up a bow and arrow in the Invictus Games archery competition in the Netherlands.

The sporting event for active duty personnel and ill, injured or injured veterans opens Saturday and ends April 22 in the Dutch city that calls itself the world center for peace and justice.

These concepts seem a world apart for the team of 19 Ukrainian athletes and their supporters as they settle in The Hague for the games.

Volodymyr Musyak takes part in the games (Peter Dejong/AP)

One of the team, Taira Paievska, did not even make the trip after being taken hostage by Russian forces in Mariupol where she was working as a paramedic, Ms Pashkevych said.

Four Ukrainians who were not scheduled to participate in the games but were active in the global wounded service community died in March, two on active duty and two in rocket attacks, Invictus Games organizers said on their website.

Pavlo Kovalskyi, who enjoys rowing, archery, wheelchair basketball and possibly sitting volleyball, said that in addition to competition, he wanted to convey the harsh realities of war in his native country.

Going to the games gives the 31-year-old a chance “to better tell, to convey information to the public, to our friends, to our new acquaintances, just to other athletes, what is happening now”, he said. -he declares.

“Winning is important for us, it is important to prove that we are all undefeated,” he told the participants. “And your team is part of the indomitable spirit of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people and all of us.”

The Ukrainians are among nearly 500 competitors from 20 nations taking part in the Invictus Games. Russia has never participated in any of the previous games and does not have a team in The Hague.

The event is the brainchild of the Duke of Sussex, who will be in The Hague with his wife Meghan for the opening days of the games, which have been twice delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The first edition of the games was held in London in 2014, followed by Orlando in 2016, Toronto in 2017 and Sydney in 2018.

Service personnel compete in athletics, archery, cycling, indoor rowing, powerlifting, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby as well a driving challenge organized by one of the official partners of the event, the car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover.

Members of the Ukrainian team at the Invictus Games
Members of the Ukrainian team at the Invictus Games (Peter Dejong/AP)

Mr. Musyak, who suffers from a concussion caused by the explosion of a mine, competes in events such as archery, but must prepare without his trainer, Dmytro Sydoruk, who died in the war.

“On the eve of our departure, he died,” Mr. Musyak said. “Whether military or civilian, every loss to us, especially when our children are killed, when civilians are killed, when women are killed, is an irreparable loss.”

And while Mr Musyak is competing in The Hague, his mind is elsewhere.

“It’s only day two here, we’ve come from the front line and so far I’m mentally with my brothers in arms, of course,” he said. “After the end of the competition, we return to the front line to defend our country.”