NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Imagine being a college student 5,000 miles away from family while your home country is under attack.
That’s the case for two tennis players at Old Dominion.
Yevhen Sirous sums up the seriousness of the situation: “My city, my hometown is being bombed so heavily for the last two days.”
Sirous along with Yulia Starodubtseva are from Ukraine. They’re trying to balance their education and athletic obligations while their native country is at war with Russia.
“We went for winter break to Ukraine, we were both home,” Starodubtseva said. “It was quiet, it didn’t look like anything was going to happen. It’s just crazy to think it actually happened. Nobody was expecting it.”
While tennis can be a getaway, there are still lingering thoughts about what is happening in their home country.
“I immediately reached out,” men’s tennis coach Dominik Mueller said. “How are you doing? How is your family? That was my number one concern.”
“Yulia was ranked number one in the country in doubles two weeks ago — she’s still top five,” said women’s tennis coach Dominic Manilla.
“Everything she’s done this year have been very impressive, add this on top of it and she has kept going and has not missed a beat. It shows you what type of people they are and what type of people Ukraine creates.”
The support from the university continued on Wednesday night with a candlelight vigil at Kaufman Mall where Starodubtseva spoke to the crowd where she urged people to spread the word.
“Post on your social media and stay strong for the Ukrainian people and please do everything in your power because every little thing matters right now,” she said.
Both Starodubtseva and Sirous are hoping for the best for their country and hoping for a resolution.
“We see our soldiers fighting so courageously, we’re fighting back and winning. We just hope in a couple of days it will be the end of this,” Sirous said.
Starodubtseva added, “How the world has stood up for us, it’s very meaningful.”