Elina Svitolina: Ukrainian tennis player with a “mission” to help a war-torn country

The 27-year-old, who maintains regular contact with her family and friends in Ukraine, has taken a break from tennis to focus on fundraising and publicizing her country’s plight.

“It’s very difficult because they [her family] tell their stories,” said Svitolina. CNN Sports.

“Every day I talk to my grandmother to find out how she feels. It’s quite hard for her, because for the elderly, the most important thing is to follow the daily routine, and now in Odessa, in my hometown, there is a lot of bombing and shooting. .

“It is important to keep in touch with her every day to support her in every possible way.

“One of the most important things is also to keep their spirits up.”

Elina Svitolina wants to use her platform to help Ukraine.

UNITED24

Svitolina was born in Odessa, a strategically important port city, blocked Russian troops after the invasion.

She then moved to Kharkiv when she was 12 and says she felt helpless as she watched the fierce fighting that continues to rock the eastern city.

At 16, Svitolina left Ukraine to pursue her sporting ambitions, but her country has always been in her heart. She is proud of her roots and smiles as she recalls the moments from her childhood that helped form such a strong bond with Ukraine.

Tennis player Elina Svitolina said that all the prize money she wins at the Monterrey Open will go to the Ukrainian army
Now she turned that love on herself Fund – which encourages children to learn life lessons through tennis – and UNITED24an organization created by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to raise funds for medicines, defense and, ultimately, the restoration of the country’s infrastructure.

Svitolina was recently appointed as an ambassador and spoke to Zelenskiy, who tasked her with bringing the sports community together and creating awareness.

“It was one of the moments when I was most stressed, and even when I went out on the tennis court, I was not so stressed,” Svitolina said, speaking of her Zoom call with the president and her fellow ambassador, the great Ukrainian footballer Andrey Shevchenko.

“But he was very kind and his speech was very motivating. […] what he does requires great courage.

“He simply explained what Ukraine really needs these days and how he sees the situation in Ukraine right now. He is still very, very motivated and he loves Ukraine and he will die for our country.

“And this is definitely what all Ukrainians are looking for, such a person who gives his life for the country.”

It’s still early, but Svitolina is already planning events, especially in the tennis community, for later this year, and she says the foundation has given her a clear goal.

Pregnancy

Amid the darkness, there was light. Svitolina found out she was pregnant shortly before the start of the invasion and was expecting a child with partner and fellow tennis player Gael Monfils.

This is what, along with the mental fatigue caused by the invasion, caused her to take a break from the sport she was trying to continue.

“It was a pretty stressful couple of months at the beginning, but yes, I feel a lot better,” she said.

“Of course, I am still very, very sad about the situation that is happening now and how many people died because of the invasion.

“This makes me very sad. And that’s why I try to, you know, focus a little on my foundation, on UNITED24, just to have a mission that I can help in any way.”

Although she does not yet have the motivation to return to tennis, she has a long-term goal of representing her country at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

She knows, perhaps more than anyone, how unifying sport can be in times of such heartache and deprivation, as evidenced by Ukrainian football teams. powerful Qualifying campaign for the World Cup.

“It is very important that people give some other information, because, frankly, I don’t understand 100% what is really happening in Ukraine,” she said.

“People have a very, very hard time going through hell every single day. It is psychologically difficult for people who are still in Ukraine.

“There’s a lot, a lot going on, and they’ve been through a lot already, so I’m thinking of bringing in something different, that’s what I think they enjoy.”