‘War has changed me in so many ways’: Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina on her new outlook

Elina Svitolina earnt her first Grand Slam match win since becoming a mother and had plenty to say in her post-match press conference

Elina Svitolina Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina reacts during her first round match against Italy’s Martina Trevisan (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

It is a new Elina Svitolina we are seeing on the court now. Now a wife and mother, yes, but she has also been shaped by the war currently raging in her homeland Ukraine.

Since her return to the court after giving birth to her daughter last October, the former world No 3 has been thinking of ways she can help those affected by the conflict, including the donation of her prize money to humanitarian projects.

“I think war changed me in so many ways. I think I treasure more my family, my time with my family, my time just on a daily basis,” she told reporters after her win over Martina Trevisan.

“You know, I really try to understand that how lucky I am to be where I am and to have a voice, as well. Also to, you know, to play on such a big events, to have opportunity to play such big events, to motivate young kids of Ukraine, to have this opportunity.

“So in so many ways, I’m just grateful that my life turned like that, so that’s why right now I just want to give this little part to the people who need it the most right now. [I] just want to do something in return.”

‘I want to do it for myself’

Her position as a role model was one of the motivating factors that pushed her to return to action after her pregnancy, and she hopes that she will be able to put together a run in Paris to go alongside her title in Strasbourg last week.

“I already knew when I was pregnant that I would come back, because I want to do it for myself. I have some goals that I want to complete before I retired completely.

“Of course, for my country, as well, to bring these little moments like, for example, winning Strasbourg, starting well here, as well. These kind of moments, these little wins, on the level, which is very low, but these moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity, but these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themself as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina: Empty words are not helping

She also appeared to make a subtle mention of the ongoing controversy around the post-match handshake between Ukrainians and Belarusians or Russians – calling on people to stop talking and concentrate on positive action.

“What I found, that a lot of, I don’t know in a nicer way to say, but a lot of rubbish is happening around the situation where we have to focus on what the main point of what is going on, of a lot of people, Ukrainian people, need help and need support. We are focusing on so many, you know, things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“So right now my focus, and I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war and they are fighting for Ukraine. We are missing the main point that people now at this time, they need help as never before. The kids, they’re losing their parents, they’re losing parts of their body.

“There is so many things that we can do and help in different ways. You can donate couple of dollars: might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people. We are missing the main point of all of that and talking, talking, talking about nothing. Well, here, empty, completely empty words. Not helping.”

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