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A Celebration of Yellow and Blue

By Megan Canizares Castillo and Lila Hempel-Edgers
Posted on October 24, 2022
A Celebration of Yellow and Blue

Ukrainian Rowers Bring Much to HOCR, Take Much from Experience

The loudest cheers of the weekend, maybe some of the loudest cheers in Head of the Charles history, went to two middle-of-the-pack boats in the men’s and women’s Championship Eights on Sunday. The women and men of the Ukrainian National Team finished ninth and 12th respectively. But their presence in this year’s regatta brought a sense of hope and uplift to competitors and spectators alike, along with a stark reminder that the war in their Ukrainian homeland is far from over.

“This race and this regatta is not only for rowing, for winning, but is for friendship and for communication, and a lot of support,” said Olena Buryak, (pictured above) two-time Olympian and member of the Ukrainian national women’s rowing team. “And we want to show to everybody that we can fight. We’re still alive.”

Buryak, rowing in her first Head of the Charles, relocated to Poland following Russian invasion of Ukraine. Thankful for the opportunity to attend the regatta, she is comforted by the response her team has received over their last four days in Boston.

“We got a lot of support from just usual people and usual pedestrians. I now know that people support not only rowers, but all of Ukraine,” said Buryak. “You can see everywhere Ukrainian flags, and Ukrainian blue and yellow colors. It’s like colors of freedom.”

Men’s team member Dymitro Hula shares an appreciation for the people of Boston and the warm atmosphere they provided. As crowds chanted “Go Ukraine,” Hula described the excitement the team felt as they crossed the starting line Sunday morning.

“The loudspeakers say, ‘Ukraine, you are welcome. Go Ukraine, enjoy the racing!’ It was amazing,” said Hula. “A lot of people take photos with us, show their support, and we of course, show our gratitude to American people, to all those who support Ukraine.”

The Ukrainian athletes—they also brought a team that raced in the Men’s Youth Four—were sponsored by the Head of the Charles, with help from the City of Cambridge, Delta Airlines, and others. And while their summer rowing in Europe and their four-day respite at the Head of the Charles has brought a sense of normalcy to their lives, the carnage in their homeland is never far from their thoughts.

“The main battle goes on the battlefield. We are not there, but we will try to do our best to help,” said Hula. “This will be a win, for the whole free world, against dictatorship.”

Through the help of Olympian Andriy Pryveda, who translated his words to English, coach Mykola Chupryna expressed his appreciation for the warm welcome and support his team has received from the city of Boston. “It is their first time here and they were really excited to compete,” said Chupryna, of the athletes’ reactions. “They are shocked to see so many people.”

Anastasiia Kozhenkova, a gold medalist in the women’s quad at the London Olympics in 2012, expressed concern for the safety of her mother, who resides in Ukraine, but is grateful for the company of her husband and son who also managed to leave the country. Svitlana Ivanchuk, who helped translate her words to English, states that Kozhenkova is unsure of what returning to Ukraine would mean for her and her family, and how she will ever be able to continue her life there. The athlete emphasized that anyone, regardless of where they are, can help support Ukraine.

“[People are] getting used to this situation and forgot that the war still is going on,” said Kozhenkova. “So just don’t be silent. Don’t forget about the war.”

Although his country remains in peril, Hula highlights the power of events such as Head of the Charles and thanks the organizing committee for giving his team an opportunity both to race and to speak out about their situation. He claimed that “a lot of attention was drawn to us, much more than we had at the World Championships.

“The more the Western world, the civilized world, helps us, the faster we will achieve our victory, the faster it will stop,” states Hula. “Keep supporting Ukraine because it’s absolutely crucial for the whole, free world that we win. It will be our common victory.”




By Megan Canizares Castillo and Lila Hempel-Edgers
Posted on October 24, 2022