Spezia midfielder Viktor Kovalenko felt helpless when Russian troops entered his native Ukraine. Therefore, he is 1,800 kilometers away in Italy, helping his country by auctioning memorabilia.
The 26-year-old, who has made 32 appearances for the Ukraine national team, donated the Spezia jersey number 8 which he signed with the words “Stop War and Peace in Ukraine”.
The jersey, which is being sold on eBay, has an initial bid of US$1,000.
Read also: 35 Countries Strengthen Defense Equipment for Ukraine
Kovalenko said he was shaken to hear the news that his country was invaded by Russia, last February 24.
“In the first 15 to 20 days, it’s difficult because you can’t do anything,” Kovalenko said in an interview via Zoom from Italy.
“You can’t go there, you can’t even hug your loved ones. It’s tough. But then I realized that I can be more useful here than in Ukraine. I’ve never held a gun in my life.”
The auction series, partly organized by the Belarus Sports Solidarity Foundation, also includes Robert Lewandowski’s Poland jersey and the bronze medal won by Ukrainian karateka Stanislav Horuna at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, among others.
Kovalenko is from Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine that was occupied by Russian troops, earlier this month, and was the target of bombardment.
Ukrainian officials warned last week that the city’s 300,000 residents were at risk of a humanitarian catastrophe as the Russian blockade has prevented the evacuation of civilians and the delivery of food and medical supplies.
Moscow targets civilians in what it calls special military operations to undermine Ukraine’s military capabilities and root out people it calls dangerous nationalists.
Kovalenko’s parents are still in Kherson. His father could not escape because men between the ages of 18 and 60 were obliged to defend the country, while his mother did not want to go without her husband, Kovalenko said.
“I really want them to leave,” said Kovalenko. “But they are the ones who have to make that decision.”
Kovalenko said the worry led to him experiencing insomnia and taking sleeping pills. (Ant/OL-1)