Alexandra Herasimenia: Olympic medalist who fled from Belarus is again forced to leave the country after the attack of Ukraine

Herasimenia, a three-time Olympic champion, was among the thousands of Ukrainians who crowded on the border with Poland as Russian troops advanced on Kyiv.

On the second day of the Russian invasion last month, Gerasimenya and her husband, Olympic swimming champion Yevgeny Tsurkin, packed up and set off on a 12-hour drive to the Polish border with their infant daughter and Gerasimiya’s mother.

As explosions rang out in the background as they drove along the congested roads, Gerasimya reassured her three-and-a-half-year-old daughter by telling her it was just thunder.

“Of course, I had to come up with something, because how to explain to a child that a war has begun?” This was reported to Reuters by Gerasimiya, who is now in Warsaw with her family.

Herasimenia was among the elite athletes who fled Belarus following a crackdown on those who protested what they called Alexander Lukashenko’s fraudulent re-election in August 2020.

Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, denies any wrongdoing.

Russia used Belarusian territory for a multifaceted invasion of Ukraine, where many Belarusians settled to escape persecution at home. Moscow says it is conducting a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine.

“We ran for a long time,” said Gerasimenya, whose family waited for almost a day and a half at the Ukraine-Poland border.

“Those who left were the best in Belarusian society, those who were against what happened after the elections, those who spoke out against the violence and expressed their position.”

“Freedom Fight”

Gerasimenya heads the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, a group that supports athletes who have been jailed or otherwise punished for their political views.

They include Kristina Timanovskaya, a sprinter who defected from the Tokyo Olympics last year after coaches suspended her from the Games against her will.

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On the recommendation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), several international sports federations have banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competition due to the invasion of Ukraine.

The foundation supported the decision to ban Belarusian athletes, but says it supports the efforts of those who have expressed disagreement with Lukashenka to compete independently.

She is also determined to fight discrimination against Belarusians now that the public in many Western countries considers their country an “aggressor,” Gerasimiya said.

“A year and a half ago, we were the ones who fought for our rights, our freedom,” said Gerasimenya, who won silver in the 100 and 50m freestyle at the 2012 London Games and bronze in the 50m freestyle at the 2012 Games. London. Olympic Games 2016 in Rio.

“We called on the help of Europeans, Americans and everyone in Ukraine. We warned that Lukashenka is very dangerous.

“As if it never happened… No difference is made between those who support Lukashenka and those who fought against him.”

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