A former Wimbledon tennis star from Ukraine returned to SW19 to help out in a charity shop supporting her country while it is at war. Olga Savchuk, visited the British Red Cross Wimbledon shop on Monday in support of the charity’s Ukraine crisis appeal.
Olga is in London to attend Wimbledon and visit her husband’s family in Wimbledon Village.
Now retired from playing, she is one of two coaches of top 10 player Karolína Plíšková.
She reached a career-high singles ranking of 79 on the WTA Tour and won three doubles titles.
Olga grew up in Donetsk, south-eastern Ukraine, a disputed territory between her country and Russia.
During her visit to the British Red Cross shop, she explained that she moved to Kyiv in 2014 after experiencing constant bombing in Donetsk, and after the family apartment was destroyed.
“We never went back home and moved to Kyi,” Olga said. “It was surreal, but I just tried to put it behind me and focused on tennis. Now it is has happened for a second time. It feels as if I have lost part of my life, my past, my school, my home, the streets I used to love.”
Her mother is with her in London, but she worries about her father, now unable to leave Donetsk, and grandfather and aunt who are in Kyiv.
Olga said: “Words are not enough to describe what has happened. Crazy doesn’t describe it. My husband is British, and even though he has been living through it with us for the past four months, he can’t completely understand how it feels.
“I keep telling him ‘imagine if a missile hit Regent Street’.
“It’s important that people around the world do not forget the people affected by the fighting in Ukraine. That’s why I’m here to support the Red Cross appeal, which is helping people right now in Ukraine and the border countries.”
Olga said she enjoyed her day volunteering at the Wimbledon charity shop and is happy to be back in South London.
“I love everything about Wimbledon,” she said.
“My family-in-law lives in Wimbledon Village, so it’s very special to play here and to be around every year. It is a unique slam – whoever you ask in tennis, everyone always answers that they want to win Wimbledon.”
Charlie Walker, shop manager at the British Red Cross Wimbledon store said: “It was a privilege to host Olga and hear both about her life growing up in Ukraine, and the experiences of her family and friends back home.
“So many people have lost their homes and their lives have utterly changed.
“ Knowing that the Red Cross is there and making a difference every day helps motivate our staff and volunteers.”
British Red Cross teams are welcoming Ukrainians on arrival locations across the UK, providing psychosocial and practical support through things like food, water, hygiene items and essentials to help people keep in touch, like SIM cards, mobile phones and chargers. l
To support the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal, go to www.redcross.org.uk/ukraine or call 0300 023 0820.
Picture top: Olga Savchuk helps out in the Wimbledon British Red Cross shop Picture: AELTC / Jon Super
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