Much more than a surprise, it will be a great pleasure and a relief to meet Stanislav Horuna and the Ukrainian national team at the Karate 1 in Porto.

Mobilized the 1st month of the war, the Olympic bronze medalist (-75 kg) has since struggled as a volunteer to help refugees and comfort soldiers.

Of course, in Porto, he will not be in a top shape. So what ?! As he says, “today, Karate is not sport, it is mental health”. Seeing his wife and son, refugees in Hungary, who will be in Porto, will already be a victory for him.

By Ludovic Mauchien / Photos : DR

My first question, of course, is : how are you doing ?

… I am ok… I am ok…. Staying strong…

What is your life since the Russian invasion ?

I spent the 1st month in a military base, patrolling days and nights. I went home to sleep, take a shower and I was coming back to the military base and patrolling again.

Then, the situation became more stable and controlled by our military forces. They told that I could slow down and go back to training, that I had to patrol less, like one or two times per week. So I could spent time for training.

When I got more free time, I started to volunteer as well. I raise up some funds and communicate with the refugees from other regions, army men, and some guys who volunteer as well. Whatever they need, I tried to find it or buy it for them, or send money for their needs.

What about your wife and your son ?

They are in Budapest for now. My friend gave them an apartment to stay. They are OK. They come to Portugal to watch my fights. That will be the 1st time they come to see me in a competition.

Do you think you are ready for such a competition ?

No, I am not ready, definitely (he laughs). My trainings were not enough to get in shape, especially after the month in military base, when I did nothing, not sleeping and not eating properly, stressed all the time… So I am not in the best shape for sure. But who cares ? I will go to the competition and I will try to do what I can. Hopefully, some fights will be interesting.

Why doing this competition ?

… You know, Karate, in these times, for me as well, it’s not only about sport but it’s about mental health. When you have the opportunity to do what you used to do, to get back to your habit and part of your normal life, it gives you some confidence and gets the stress away.

You need Karate to forget your daily life, that’s what you mean ?

Yes, that’s what I mean, to distract from all these bad news, for a few hours, for a day... At least, I may not think about all this horror that is happening in Ukraine.

And I do it also for the kids. Why I mention them is because our coaches made on line trainings for kids and they are so happy, to stay together, to be in connection with athletes, with their coaches… Parents make such a good feedback about those trainings. Everyone is happy to be able to do Karate, even on line, even where they are, in basements or in some other cities. That’s a good opportunity to stay together, for mental health. Karate is for mental health, for sure, in these times.

Why I go to this competition, it’s just part of this. I just want to distract from all these things. I will take a little rest and, then, I will come back here of course, to continue to do what I do.

Did you train by yourself ?

No, I didn’t train by myself. Lviv is more or less a safe place. Many people from eastern cities didn’t go abroad and came to Lviv. We have many athletes here from other cities, from Kyiv, from Odessa, from Zaporijia, Kharkiv… They come to our Dojo and we train together. Now, it’s even more people in training.

Lviv was struck on Monday by bombs. How do you live it ?

It’s not new. We had missile attacks before. It depends what time it happens. Once, it happened early in the morning and I was sleeping. I woke up because of that.

You know, for us, it’s a “normal thing”. We got adapted to it and there is no panic when you see rocket strikes, there is no panic when you hear explosion. It’s just part of our lives.

How do you see the future ?

(He laughs). I always stay away from the predictions. But, for now, the situation seems very good, with our victories. We fought back most of the Russian army. They left central regions and concentrate to eastern and southern regions.

They are running out of ressources, people, weapons, aircrafts and we get more and more support from the European Union, the Unites States, Great Britain, Turkey, Azerbaijan… Many countries support us.

Now, they have started the 2nd phase of active fights. On Monday night, in the East, it was very difficult, very hard, very dangerous. For the next few days, it will be terrible, like the 1st week of the war.

If we succeed in defending the Donbass region, then, for sure, we will win this war.

Were you surprised by this Russian attack ?

Ukrainian people were not waiting for it. It may happen but nobody wanted to believe this happens. But our military forces, for sure, knew about that. They were prepared for that. We had less people, less equipment but still we manage to change the game and to ruin all the Russians plans.

The government didn’t tell the people about this war to come because they didn’t want to spread the panic. If they told us one week before it started, people would start moving to the East and all the roads would have been blocked. Our transport system would have been paralyzed. Mobilization would not have been impossible.

They had to make this difficult decision. Of course, if they said it, it would have saved some lives at the beginning. But, at the end, it would have been worst. I think they made the right decision.

 Ukraine team avant départ

The Ukrainian team before its leaving for Portugal.