Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

Hong Kong

Ukrainian skilled footballer Aleks Shliakotin begged his mother and father to flee the nation after Russian bombs went off a kilometer from their Kyiv house.

However they had been adamant they’d be tremendous hiding out of their outdated residence within the leafy suburb of Bucha.

That was again in February. 4 months on, a lot of their neighborhood lies in ruins, leveled in a Russian advance so brutal the suburb has grow to be synonymous with alleged war crimes by Moscow’s forces.

Fortunately, whereas Shliakotin’s mother and father took some convincing, they did finally come round – fleeing simply earlier than the primary Russian tanks rolled in. Now they’re awaiting refugee standing in Germany and tearfully thank their son and daughter with every phone name.

“Days after convincing them, I noticed movies of crushed streets – all the pieces regarded horrible, like after the Second World Conflict. Then I realised, ‘rattling it, this seems very acquainted to me,’” stated Shliakotin, a goalkeeper for Hong Kong Premier League membership Hong Kong Rangers.

“Then the man within the video says it’s Vokzal’na Road, Bucha. That’s actually my road, the place I spent my childhood, the place I went to highschool, the place I’ve walked hundreds of instances. If my mother and father had nonetheless been there, they in all probability wouldn’t be alive. Our home was destroyed.

“A couple of weeks after that, there have been scenes of individuals simply laying on the street with their fingers tied, shot of their heads. It’s simply … unattainable to course of. Thank God they left.”

Shliakotin doesn’t know what occurred to his mother and father’ residence, as all their neighbors fled too.

It was a journey fraught with hazard for the couple, of their 60s, who needed to escape by automobile as a result of the airport was underneath heavy shelling. Temperatures had been under zero and so they had no spare garments.

So crowded had been the roads with fleeing Ukrainians – a few of them main youngsters and animals on foot – that it took them 4 days to succeed in the Polish border, a journey that might usually take eight hours.

“It seems like some sort of film. On the final day, they helped deliver three youngsters from one other household throughout the border, as a result of the daddy within the lane behind them couldn’t go away the nation,” Shliakotin stated.

The footballer is just not looking for sympathy.

“It’s essential perceive that whereas the tales sound wild, we’re form of fortunate. We’ve got nothing to complain about. Proper now in Ukraine, if you happen to misplaced your residence however everyone seems to be alive (then) you don’t even open your mouth to say one thing unhealthy has occurred to you,” he stated.

“(Many youngsters) reside with out their mother and father … individuals are writing cellphone numbers, surnames and date of births on their youngsters’ backs simply in case they die the subsequent day.”

What Shliakotin – a former Ukraine nationwide youth crew goalkeeper – is looking for, nevertheless, is funding to assist these caught again house.

And he has discovered a stunning degree of assist in his adopted house of Hong Kong.

Beginning his soccer profession on the prestigious Dynamo Kyiv youth academy, the now 32-year-old Shliakotin has been a Hong Kong fan favourite since transferring to its prime league in 2016.

And he has discovered he can leverage that reputation for a superb trigger, receiving an awesome response to his Instagram video posts wherein he asks Hongkongers for assist.

“I received hundreds of messages of assist from day one,” he stated. “I used to be shocked at how many individuals needed to assist,” Shliakotin stated.

One of three ambulances filled with first-aid resources and funded by Hong Kong donors to be sent from Spain to Ukraine.

His appeals have since helped to fund 9 ambulances to be despatched to Ukraine, three of them paid for particularly by donations from Hong Kong, and numerous smaller choices.

“There was one man who contacted me on Fb, a Mr. Lam, who wrote ‘hey Aleks, I noticed the information on Ukraine and I wish to donate $10,000 Hong Kong dollars (about $1,300), however I wish to assist a particular individual or household who really want it. If you recognize somebody, please let me know.’

“I had simply heard from a mom and two daughters from Chernihiv whose home was destroyed and had been in panic with nowhere to go. So we despatched the cash to them.

“The household had been shocked – they couldn’t consider one thing like this was potential. That a man from Hong Kong, a spot they didn’t hadn’t even heard of, would assist unexpectedly.

“These are the moments the place I do know that humanity continues to be alive – that there’s nonetheless some good on the earth.”

Two shut buddies are serving to Shliakotin in his efforts.

Oresta Brit is a volunteer who has been feeding and transporting youngsters and the aged since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, whereas Roman Zozulya is a former Dynamo Kyiv youth teammate enjoying in Spain, who helps to purchase, service and restore the ambulances in that nation earlier than they’re despatched to Ukraine.

Ukrainian footballer Roman Zozulya holds a 'Thank You Hong Kong' sign in front of an ambulance to be sent from Spain to Ukraine.

Every ambulance wants documentation from the Ukrainian Embassy, then should be registered to a particular army unit.

As soon as these containers are ticked, “we stuff our ambulances with humanitarian assist, and our volunteers drive them to the border, earlier than my (crew) takes over to the ultimate vacation spot,” Shliakotin.

Zozulya stated he and Shliakotin had been only one a part of a community of abroad Ukrainian footballers “uniting to assist.”

“Whereas some are preventing on the entrance traces, we’ve got our personal [role] as public figures,” Zozulya stated.

“We’ve got this chance that others don’t have – we will converse to the entire world and may be heard by an enormous variety of folks.”

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