Dresden (AP) – Kyrylo Melitschenko has lost his laughter, his happiness. The footballer of the Ukrainian first division club FK Mariupol speaks calmly, almost shyly, about the last three months. And he’s not talking about football, but about his home in Ukraine. A house he hasn’t seen for more than two months. A house that no longer exists. The war has turned Mariupol from once beautiful into a city in ruins. Since then, the young footballer has been displaced. A return home, even as a footballer, is out of the question for the foreseeable future.
The soft, hesitant “Hello” is the only German word Melitschenko can utter on Monday. Then his girlfriend Anja translates. “He doesn’t speak the language very well yet. But we practice every day,” she said, half apologetically. Its real language is football, because you would understand it everywhere.
In fact, Kyrylo Melitschenko plays at right-back for FK Mariupol. As for Dynamo Dresden, who are currently offering a training opportunity for the talented man, the Eastern Ukraine side are also keen to stay in class. There is not much in common between the two clubs. But that’s not the topic these days.
As he speaks in a calm voice, his girlfriend Anja is on the verge of tears several times. “Mariupol was such a beautiful city,” she says. The club premises of the Ukrainian first division club and its apartment in an apartment building in the city of eastern Ukraine with all their personal belongings were completely destroyed. The couple’s parents have now fled the basements of the capital kyiv to the west of the country. “Since fathers are not allowed to leave the country, mothers don’t want to leave either,” Melitschenko explains.
The last time he had Ukrainian soil under his feet was January 20. From there he went to training camp in Turkey – unaware that he would not be seeing his country again anytime soon. On February 24, the team sat down at the airport, ready for the return trip. “But at that time the airspace in Ukraine was already closed. Then we went back to the hotel,” the 22-year-old says of the day the war started. The club then told the players to look for clubs where they can keep fit.
Friend Anja, who after a one-year internship in Potsdam has a very good knowledge of German, wrote to several associations in Germany and asked for help. “Within two hours we had feedback from Dynamo, two days later we were in Dresden,” reports Melitschenko.
The Ukrainian youngster has been training in Dresden for around two weeks now and is largely supported by the club. Of the team, the Russian Anton Mitryushkin helps him the most. “I have a lot of contact with Anton, he helps me a lot. He knows the truth about this war, but we don’t talk about it much. Politics is always politics,” Melitschenko said.
He knew nothing of Dynamo Dresden before his arrival. Last Friday he was at the Rudolf Harbig stadium for the first time in the 2-1 defeat against FC Schalke 04. “It’s an incredible stadium, incredible fans. I’ve never experienced anything like this, although I was just there as a spectator,” he says of his visit. The first smile of the day crossed her lips.
Melitschenko isn’t even allowed to play for the Blacks and Yellows once this season, except in training and friendly matches. The German Football Association (DFB) bans it in reference to the sporting integrity of the competition.
Dynamo assistant coach Heiko Scholz is nonetheless pleased with the newcomer’s training performance: “You can see that he can keep up with us. He does a good job and feels comfortable, even if he doesn’t don’t understand everything. He’s a good boy.” Melichenko himself says he “would like to stay if it was possible”.
The footballer, who didn’t have to do his military service because he studied logistics, wants nothing more than peace soon. “Everything else is not important. It should finally be over so we can go home,” Melitschenko points out. Filled with gratitude and humility, the footballer said: “Thank you, Germany.”
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