Ten ice arenas destroyed in Ukraine: where do children train?
Kateryna Balinska, medical psychologist, founder of the NGO "BAUER Figure Skating School"
About 13 million people left Ukraine due to the war. This is a third of the pre-war population. Experts say this is the most significant movement of people in Europe since World War II. There is loss in sports as well. The Russians bombed ten ice arenas in Ukraine. The question "How to return people after the war?" is directly related to the question - “Where should children who cannot imagine their life without sports train?”
In times of war, sport in the general sense is not a priority. But sport for children is a different matter. Now it is not about the victories of Ukrainians at prestigious championships, not about leisure or entertainment. Now it is about psychological assistance to those who faced the hell of war, the children’s development and their psychological stability.
There is a girl who does figure skating with us. She moved to Lviv from Mariupol. Tell me, if she survived those hellish shellings, the horror of evacuation, the filtration camps and the death of her father in Azovstal, then does she have to cry until the end of the war? Is it, in general, humane to leave her in such a state?
We worked online in Lviv until May. Then an ice rink opened in one shopping mall. And when it opened, the children decided to organize a concert "Good evening, we are from Ukraine!". For them it was an opportunity to express their emotions and hope for Victory, and to raise money for the support fund for children who suffered during the war. The concert was scheduled for May 25, but on the 14th came the news of the death of one of our athlete's father. We didn't know if we had the moral right to involve her in the concert. The girl and her mother insisted that she had to participate. After the concert, in an interview, the girl said that her father could definitely see that when she performed she was happy. We could not hold back the tears, but it gave us the strength to go on.
The development of sport for children or other activities is one of the options for helping those who currently stand on the frontline. Our soldiers are not defending some territory or an empty house. They give their lives for the future of specific people, their children and parents and must be sure that here in the rear we care about them no less than they care about us on the frontline. Sport changes children and helps to get rid of many problems. And, as a psychologist, I want to say that we, adults, can compensate for our fears and worries through activities to help the front by volunteering. Most children have limited possibilities but hear disturbing information from various Telegram channels and social media. It affects their emotional state. Everyone's reaction to horrible events can be different. Some are completely apathetic and indifferent, some are unmotivated and aggressive, some sleep worse and lose appetite. Today children simply need peaceful communities, regular training and cooperative activities with other children that involve live communication and exchange of emotions.
Taking a child away from gadgets and giving them the opportunity to discover the world is one of the necessary components of any nation, not only Ukrainians. Sport, creative or technical activities for children is what will shape our future.
One can immediately notice a child who does sport. They are more focused with better coordination, they are more organized. It is about future leaders, organizers and managers. I'm not saying that a person who does sports will automatically become a manager, that's absurd. But they are different.
The leader of today must clearly understand people's emotions, their desires, and hear what they say to them. The management system has changed. In today's generation, the leader needs to be a strong empath in order to organize the living community, where people sometimes don't hear or don’t understand each other, into a common group. This can be done by a person who definitely spends their time away from gadgets.
Sports can give a lot, but now, due to the absence or closure of sports complexes, child athletes are losing their sports future. They don’t have the luxury to pause, it's a step back. Short time passes, and the athletes cannot catch up with their peers.
And if we waste time today, tomorrow we can lose coaches. Will they wait for sports clubs to resume work? They need to feed their families. They will look for work abroad. Where shall we get such a resource for children after the war? Someone will say that we will take the money and find the best specialists. It will not happen because the culture of sports development is being destroyed.
That is why children who went abroad and received excellent conditions for training from other federations do not always want to return. Both parents and children understand how important it is in the development of an athlete to train at cool ice arenas or properly equipped halls, which were a problem in our country even before the war. Now they are worth their weight in gold.
Currently many athletes and coaches from all over Ukraine are training in Lviv, but there is still no proper ice arena.
We started a private commercial project that will allow children to get a place for training. When talking with potential investors, we sometimes hear that the development of sports in Ukraine is a secondary matter now, which can be postponed and returned to after the Victory. I am convinced that sport is about the future of our children, about how they will grow up and what kind of country they will build.