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Tennis star Sergiy Stakhovsky has returned to his native Ukraine, leaving his wife and three children behind in Hungary, as he helps to defend his country against Russian forces.
Speaking recently to CNN from Kyiv, Stakhovsky — a four-time ATP title winner — said he was vacationing with his family in Dubai when Russia invaded. That’s when he decided to leave his family at their Hungary home and join the fight as a member of his country’s army reservists.
“If I stayed home, I would feel guilt,” Stakhovsky said, who called it a career in January following the Australian Open. “I was born here, my grandparents are buried here, and I would like to have a history to tell to my kids. Nobody here wants Russia to free them, they have freedom and democracy … and Russia wants to bring despair and poverty.”
Stakhovsky, 36, also told CNN that he and his wife did not tell their children of his whereabouts.
“My wife didn’t tell them and I didn’t tell them … where I’m going,” he said. “I guess they’ll figure it out soon.”
In a previous interview with Sky News, Stakhovsky, 36, said while he does not have military experience, he has “experience with a gun privately.”
“My dad and brother are surgeons, they are stressed out, but I speak to them frequently — they sleep in the basement,” he said, according to Reuters.
“None of us believed that this could happen, and yet it happened.”
Stakhovsky, who climbed the tennis ranks after shocking Rodger Federer at Wimbledon back in 2013, expressed pride for his country last month in an Instagram post.
“I am proud of @ukraine_defence I am proud of @national_guard_of_ukraine I am proud of my president @zelenskiy_official I am proud of every Ukrainian. I am proud to be Ukrainian. Believe in our military … believe in our invincibility. Glory to Ukraine,” he wrote, according to an English translation via Fox News.
Stakhovsky joins other notable Ukrainians, including former heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko, who are fighting back against Russia.
Beyond volunteers, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy had barred men of military age (18 to 60) from leaving the country.