The Ukranian women’s junior softball team has beaten the odds, escaping the war in their home country to play the game they love in Canada.
The team is competing in the Canada Cup, an annual international softball tournament happening at Softball City in Surrey this week.
It’s thanks to Canadian sponsors the team was able to make it for the tournament this week.
Back in May, the team had plans to join the Women’s Softball World Cup but those hopes were dashed when the funds were reallocated to the war effort.
That’s when Canada Cup organizers stepped up to the plate.
“Our host committee got together and said lets do this. This seems bigger than sports,” explains Greg Timm, Chair of the Canada Cup.
“The Ukrainian government is trying to make their kids in Ukraine believe that there is life after war. So, they’re using this tournament and this trip sponsored by Canadians to give hope to kids that are still kids.”
Timm says within eight days they were able to raise over $60,000 dollars from people all over B.C through funding and a GoFundMe campaign.
“We pulled the heartstrings of people all over British Columbia who donated little bits of money, lots of money, offered goods and services in kind and just showed our overwhelming connection to Ukraine. There are so many people that have Ukrainian roots here,” Timm added.
“These are 17-year-old kids that want to play. They don’t want to be involved in an armed conflict. These kids have moms and dads and neighbors that are off on the frontlines of the war and these kids are trying to still play and still be children.”
On Friday, the teens and their coaching staff arrived in Canada, greeted with signs of support and sponsoring families.
For softball players like Halyna Sochneiva, this is about more than a competition.
“I’m watching the news every day, then I go practice and I forget about everything,” Sochneiva explains.
“I’m doing my thing, and this has helped me get through this.”
Team manager Vasyl Kysilis is thankful for all the support from Canadians who made it possible for them to come and says it’s now time to shift focus to the field.
“Our army fights over there, so we are fighting for them,” Kysilis shared.
“We will show Ukraine that we are a strong team and that we can do anything.”
The team’s first game is Monday evening.
There will be a designated Ukraine Day celebration on Tuesday.
You can see the full schedule and buy tickets on the Canada Cup website.
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