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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Ukraine at War: At Boston Marathon, Ukrainian athletes show resilience in midst of war

As Ukrainian military forces are preparing for the awaited counteroffensive, Russia continues to shell the country daily. Despite the constant attacks, Ukrainians try to live their lives, coping, in part, by collecting large sums of donations for the army and presenting the strength of the country not only on the battlefield but also in international sports competitions such as the Boston Marathon. 

Among the recent Russian attacks are a strike on a museum of local history in Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region and shellings in Kherson. The museum attack on April 25 took the lives of at least two people, one of whom was a museum worker, and left 10 injured. The city where the strike took place is home to a large railway hub and was freed from Russian occupation last September. Kupyansk is not the only locality around Kharkiv suffering from the violence. Russians continuously send missiles and drones both to Kharkiv and surrounding territories. 

Kherson, another city liberated by the Ukrainian army, also regularly experiences deadly Russian attacks. On April 15, the shelling killed a 48-year-old woman and her 28-year-old daughter, who were walking together by a local school. Eight days later, Russians bombed the city with aerial bombs and directed kamikaze drones at residential buildings. The attacks are just a few examples of multiple Russian attacks on civilian objects that do not store any weaponry.  

The effects of the war on the mental health of Ukrainians cannot be denied. Ukrainian men are generally not allowed to leave the country as they may be needed for military service. Yet, the nation has still been proving its incredible resilience both through successes in the combat area and through participation in various contests, including sports. 

Ukrainian runners who took part in the 2022 Boston Marathon shared that the sport for them is an instrument for healing. Igor Krytsak, who obtained a three-day travel permission to participate, pointed out that they had to stop training entirely for a prolonged period of time, yet running the marathon was symbolic in terms of representing the strength of Ukraine. In messages to The Associated Press, Krytsak reflected that during the race, he thought about people in his home country who are currently besieged, hiding or running away from shelling. He thought about those who are defending the state and those who won’t wake up to a new day because of Russia’s violence.

During the 2023 Boston Marathon, the attention was directed toward Ukrainian runners again. In order to participate in the event and to raise funds for Sunflower of Peace — a charity that supplies Ukrainian medics in the war zone — TV anchor Marichka Padalko trained by running daily in Kyiv. In her interview with The Boston Globe, she shared that running is the only activity that helps her feel like herself. The movement gives Padalko the opportunity to dream of the future Ukrainian victory in the war and her husband returning from the frontline alive. 

Ukrainian defender Artem Moroz lost both of his legs fighting in the Kherson region and yet participated in one of the races of the 2023 Boston Marathon on two prosthetic limbs. At first, he was supposed to ride in a wheelchair and push it with his hands, but suddenly he and his assistant changed roles — she sat in the wheelchair, and Artem pushed her while running on prosthetic legs.

Despite the challenges, Ukrainians have shown remarkable strength, not only on the battlefield but also in other fields. We must continue to stand with Ukraine, whether through donating to the military efforts, supporting athletes or other initiatives that help promote the country’s commitment to freedom.