“I hope that this will end one day and I can come back and see her,” said Svitolina. The 27-year-old was speaking a week after she and Ukrainian Champions League-winning football legend Andriy Shevchenko were asked on a Zoom call by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to become ambassadors for United24
Former women’s tennis World No.3 Elina Svitolina has told AFP she hopes one day to return and see her octogenarian grandmother who has been trapped in the Black Sea port of Odessa since Russia invaded Ukraine.
“I hope that this will end one day and I can come back and see her,” said Svitolina. The 27-year-old was speaking a week after she and Ukrainian Champions League-winning football legend Andriy Shevchenko were asked on a Zoom call by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to become ambassadors for United24.
Svitolina is expecting her first child—a baby girl—in October with French tennis star Gael Monfils, but says that happy news is offset by her anxiety for family members who remain in Ukraine. Svitolina’s parents and brother managed to leave, but aside from her grandmother Tamara, her uncle and his family remain in Odessa.
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The city, a multicultural crossroads of a million inhabitants, is under de facto Russian blockade and has found itself isolated. Svitolina, a Wimbledon and US Open semi-finalist in 2019, says it is especially harrowing for her grandmother’s generation who experienced the Nazi invasion in 1941. “It is tough for older people to get through another war,” she said.
“The deficit of food, staying at home or in a basement for days…for them it is extremely stressful and very, very tough mentally. “I try to keep contact with her in Odessa and try and help her as much as I can. She was way too old to move.”
Svitolina says her grandmother has an unlikely saviour. “She is with her cat who she says is her biggest defender!
“My uncle and his family live not so far from her. They see each other when it is possible to leave the house and this is a big help. Our friends are also helping by volunteering to go and see her.” Despite not having lived in Ukraine for years, Svitolina said “it feels like home” and she used to visit three or four times a year.
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