Four members of the Invictus community in Ukraine lost their lives in Russia’s deadly invasions.
It’s the journey that almost didn’t happen, but the Ukrainian team taking part in Prince Harry’s Invictus Games this weekend has safely arrived in the Netherlands.
Gathered together at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol on Wednesday, April 13, the team proudly posed for a group photograph shared on the Invictus Games Foundation Twitter account.
“We are delighted to share the safe arrival of Team Ukraine ahead of their participation in the Invictus Games The Hague 2020,” a caption for the image reads. “They have been training for this event as part of their recovery for the last 3 years, and are looking forward to being a part of the Invictus community in person once again.”
At one point, it was thought that Team Ukraine would only take part in the games virtually or possibly not at all due to the ongoing Russian invasion, which is now nearing its third month and has seen thousands of lives lost and nearly five million evacuate the country.
As the team prepares to compete in Paralympic-style games such as wheelchair basketball and other adaptive sports between April 16 and 22, supporters and teammates will also be thinking of those who didn’t make it to The Hague.
In March, it was revealed that four members of the Invictus community in Ukraine had died during Russia’s attacks on the country. Sergey Smilin was killed in service on March 18, former Invictus competitors Vladimir Motelchuk and Dmytro Oliynyk lost their lives in rocket attacks on March 29, and former trialist Serhii Karajvan died in combat on March 13.
“They were all extremely active in the international Invictus community on the We Are Invictus platform, competing in events over the past year including the virtual London Marathon, and online Rowing championships,” a spokesperson for Invictus said. “We encourage our community to continue to look out for one another online, as sad news continues to emerge, as many will have had the opportunity to compete alongside Team Ukraine virtually or in previous Invictus Games.”
Following the death of Serhii Karajvan, Team Ukraine manager Oksana Horbach, said they will dedicate their win to friends lost. “When we win, we will celebrate his life, talk about him, and his sense of humor, professionalism, patriotism, and sports endeavors,” she said on March 16. “And we will hug and cry and laugh because the memories of him bring joy and happiness. Please do not think of him as a martyr, he would not like it. Think of him as a celebrated Invictus Games community member, hero and defender of Ukrainian people.”
This year’s Invictus Games were originally due to take place in 2020, but were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Later this week, Prince Harry—who founded the sporting event for wounded military servicemen and women eight years ago—will arrive in The Hague alongside wife Duchess Meghan. The opening ceremony takes place on April 16.