olympic marathoner goes from kenya to front lines in ukraine

Olympic Marathoner Goes From Kenya to Front Lines in Ukraine

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Nyzhnyk voluntarily joined the National Guard in 2016, and he represents its sports club in domestic racing competitions. The club comprises 150 of the country’s top athletes, 32 of whom competed at the Tokyo Games. In times of peace, Nyzhnyk doesn’t actively serve, “but in conditions of war, we must defend our country like all military,” he said.

To get from Kenya to Ukraine, Nyzhnyk flew from Nairobi to Budapest, where volunteers in Hungary helped him cross the border. A friend met Nyzhnyk in Khmelnytskyi and took him to a train bound for Kyiv so he could retrieve important documents and his car at his apartment on the outskirts of the city before meeting Olga. He had hesitated with the decision on arrival in Ukraine.

“It is unknown when we will be able to return there again,” he said, referring to his home outside Kyiv. “I thought about the route while I was still in Kenya, but changed it when I was traveling to Ukraine because the situation here is not simple and difficult to plan everything.”

“I’m not nervous, and I do everything without panic,” Nyzhnyk said on Sunday, as he sat in a crowded yet eerily quiet metro station turned shelter while he waited for curfew to end at 7 a.m.

When he left Brovary for Lviv on March 6, he drove two women and a 2-year-old boy who were escaping Kyiv for a more secure region. The route, which should take six hours, turned into a 26-hour journey through 12-mile-long traffic jams. He stopped several times to sleep in his car.

“I’m very tired,” Nyzhnyk wrote in a text exchange late on Monday. “For the last four days, I slept only three to four hours on average.”

He was reunited with Olga, who is 32 weeks pregnant, for one day in Lviv. Olga, who is also a professional runner and competed at the 2012 London Olympics in the 10,000 meters, opted not to leave Ukraine to be close to family. And, she said, “this is my homeland. I don’t want to run away.”