A Paralympic gold and silver medalist, Olympic silver and bronze medalist and a canoe marathon multiple world champion are among the dozens of Ukrainian athletes displaced by the invasion of their country by Russia.

Paracanoe Paralympic champion Serhii Yemelianov and world champion Maryna Mazhula, multiple women’s canoe marathon world champion Liudmyla Babak, and Olympic canoe bronze medalist Liudmyla Luzan will have all headed into 2022 brimming with confidence about the path ahead for them.

But now their plans are in disarray, caught up in the turmoil that has enveloped their country because of the war with Russia. Athletes have found themselves stranded, or have fled their home country. They don’t know when they will be able to return.

Many of the athletes were training in Turkey when the invasion occurred. They woke to news from loved ones that their country was under attack, and the panic set in.

Very few have since returned to Ukraine, although some, like canoe slalom paddler Viktoriia Dobrovtvorska, have made mercy dashes to help bring out loved ones. But the sense of helplessness as they watch their country crumble under Russian bombardment is palpable.

The international canoeing family has joined together almost as one to condemn the behaviour of Russia and Belarus. And they have come together like never before to support their stricken fellow athletes and the wider canoeing community in Ukraine.

National federations have opened their arms to welcome shell-shocked Ukrainian athletes. Several have provided free meals and accommodation, and are also providing free access to training facilities.

But now those federations are also under pressure, overwhelmed by the number of athletes fleeing Ukraine. Resources are being stretched thin, and the strain on finances is also increasing.

The International Canoe Federation is working urgently to find solutions, and is urging national federations and individuals to provide help if they can.

“We have already asked a lot of our canoeing family, and they have responded with incredible generosity,” ICF President, Thomas Konietzko, said.

“But we need to continue to work together, to support not just our friends from Ukraine, but also the federations who have opened their hearts and stepped up to provide so much.

“We need more equipment to help Ukraine athletes train, we are always looking for new offers of accommodation, and, ultimately, we need to keep raising money so we can keep this support going.

“I have no doubt this crisis is bringing us closer together as a community. Once again, we urge Russia and Belarus to work to find a path to peace.”

More information on how you can help can be found on our ICF webpage. There is a GoFundMe link, and also details of how you can donate non-monetary support.

Ukraine C2 500 Luzan Chetverikova Szeged 2021

Canoe Sprint
Canoe Marathon