If you follow world news at all, then you know about the conflict going on between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go watch these episodes of Vice News). For most of the polo community, this conflict is just something that we hear about on NPR or read about while browsing our favorite online news source. Most of the time, I would imagine, we read the headline or first couple lines, see that the conflict is still happening and then move on to the next article/story. Something so far away seems to have no real affect on our day to day lives so it has a hard time setting in emotionally. Unfortunately for some parts of the poloverse, tuning out the conflict is a lot more difficult.
As most of you probably do not know, the country of Ukraine has four bike polo clubs – Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv and Kryvyi Rih –with ten, ten, seven, and three players in each club, respectively. While these 30 Ukrainian players have been able to keep themselves far away from any physical backlash of the Russian/Ukrainian conflict, they still find themselves afflicted by the unfortunate situation. More specifically, Ukraine will not be able to send any teams to the 2014 European Hardcourt Bike Polo Champion in Padova because of how the conflict has destroyed the hryvnia (the Ukrainian currency). Dmytro Zhukovsky of Kyiv Bike Polo shed a little more light on this:
“…In February 1 USD cost close to 8 Hryvnias and 1 Euro close to 11. After the start of the Russian campaign in Crimea, and then in Eastern Ukraine, the Hryvnia fell to 12 for 1 USD and 17 for 1 Euro. This means that salaries lost their values in the same proportion. For example – in February, the Schengen Visa had a price of 385 Hryvnias (35 Euros) and now it’s 595 Hryvnias.”
Not only did the value of the hryvnia plummet, but the workers were essentially working for less money because of the price of imported goods skyrocketed at the same time. This left the Ukrainian polo players unable to afford the cost of traveling the 1200 miles to Padova to compete.
As mentioned above, outside of the plummeting currency, Ukrainian bike polo hasn’t seen much other backlash from the conflict. Dmytro Zhukovsky shared more about this:
“Maybe the only other consequence, which was made by this situation, is that we decided not to invite Russian teams to our tournament and not to go to Russia for polo this year. I think it’s maybe the best option because of the current position. I understand that sports and politics have to be separated, and I understand that not all Russians (and not all Russian polo player) support Putin’s politic, but the tension is still too high. On the other hand, we’re now excited to move our asses toward the West!”
It’s was great hearing such a positive attitude coming from someone so close to an unfortunate situation. Despite the Ukrainian/Russian conflict, Dmytro Zhukovsky has high hopes for the future of Ukrainian bike polo. The country we be host to two tournaments in the next couple months (the first in Lviv on June 28th – 29th and the second in Kyiv on July 26th), and Dmytro encourages everyone to come see how Urkainian bike polo has grown since there DFL finish at the 2013 EHBPC.
“We’re trying to involve as many participants from foreign countries as possible, but we’re not going to get any profit from our war with Russia. It’s real shit. …I hope that some people who remember us from the last Euro will visit Kyiv this July. …We’ve already booked a good place for a court and another one for the after party. We’ll try to do our best with the tournament. Also, Kyiv is an interesting city simply to see!”
I encourage as many European clubs as possible to attend these tournaments! We should show our polo brothers and sisters that they matter to us, and that politics-be-damned, we will support them and their tournaments. We should show them how much they will be missed at Euros and Worlds this year.