Ukrainian divers in the Black Forest – safe and finally back to training

Almost every day, Oksana Pizrebra takes her 11-year-old son Ilya and six-year-old sister Polina to the newly renovated sports pool in western Freiburg for training. The 39-year-old from Kyiv studied business in Dresden and Zurich and has been fluent in German ever since. When Russian bombs fell on Kyiv, she did not hesitate.

“Then I thought to myself that I should protect the children and not stay in Kyiv anymore.”

With three backpacks from Kyiv to Freiburg

They set out with three backpacks. A few days later, through Slovakia, Vienna, Munich and Karlsruhe, they reached their destination: Freiburg. Also thanks to the commitment of Christian Hansler, who trains jumpers here on Dreisam.

“I passed by the German Swimming Federation and simply asked if there was any collaboration with athletes from Kyiv, Ukraine. This was titled Yes. Then they ended up with me, with the group.”

Thanks to Oksana Bezrebra, Christian Hansler and two coaches from the Kyiv Academy take care of eleven Ukrainian boys and girls aged six to 11. There is only so much that can be done with sign language. Training takes place in the water six times a week and in the gym once.

Ten mothers from Ukraine now live with their children in Kirchzarten in the southern Black Forest, just outside Freiburg.

Children are protected and can train

“Yeah, well, I’m happy now that the kids have such protection first of all and second that they can be really happy here with training – and go to school here. It goes very well.”

Back in the billiards hall. Eleven-year-old Ilya, Oksana’s son, is standing in front of a diving board seven and a half meters high. Distinctive short haircut, attentive, focused look, broad shoulders for his age.

“My name is Ilya, I am 11 years old and I am from Ukraine. My hobby is diving.”

Before Ilya is allowed to climb onto the three-meter jump platform, the boys and girls do intense pull-ups and long jumps under the supervision of Christian Hansler to warm up.

Competitive sports are more popular in Ukraine

Then Elijah is allowed on the board, which is three meters high. Centered, sitting at the top of the board, you can even see the tension of the body from below – and then let itself fall upside down into the depths.

“At the moment, we only do clear diving exercises. It’s all about submerging yourself without splashing. And in this case, the technique was perfect for him. Yes, so there are jumps and all some somersaults, forwards, backwards, a few more jumps are required.”

Swimming session with German children takes place in the adjacent pool. They are fascinated by the brave peers who jump straight into the water every second. Christian Hansler, who used to be a successful diver, meditates at the edge of the pool.

“Now we are having a tough time with competitive sports. It remains a high priority for them.”

Olympic dream

In any case, Ilya has ambitious plans. His big dream is the Olympic Games. But now the 11-year-old is training for the German championship, where he is allowed to compete non-competitively.

“He says he feels good here. He is preparing for the competitions in Aachen, where he wants to win a medal in July.”

While escaping, Ilya was very afraid and unsure. And he cried a lot, says his mother. But now that he’s back in training and hanging out with his peers, he’s really succeeding. His mother and coach Christian Hansler are happy about that.

win-win situation

“Overall, it’s a win-win situation. You get along very well now. I also work with coaches. We all got something out of it. So not only did he lose, he also won.”

“It was like that – God help us.”

After doing many jumps, the 11-year-old is back again. He wants to say something else.

“Well, he says it’s very beautiful, it’s a professional sport and he loves to jump from heights into water. And that it’s probably – not destiny – but a future direction in life.”

It is uncertain whether Ilya will continue to train in Freiburg or whether she will be able to return to her homeland with her sister and mother at some point.

“Yes, it’s hard to say because no one knows how long it will take and what the situation will be like in Ukraine, especially in Kyiv. I just want the kids to stay happy. I do my best and do my best to make sure everything goes well. And yes Let’s see if our future will be here. If not, we will be back.”

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