"We will win
the war"

Applause and a minute of silence at the Ukraine press conference.

Official appearances are probably only rarely as emotional as those of the representatives from Ukraine at the INVICTUS GAMES DÜSSELDORF 2023 presented by Boeing.

Press conferences are usually rather sober. This one was anything but usual. Right at the beginning, applause erupted in the press centre. Even before the first words, the Ukrainian Minister for Veterans, Yulia Laputina, and the Ukrainian participants Yuliia “Taira” Paevka, Julia Shevchuk and Nazar Vozniuk earned ovations.

Laputina began by saying that she was honoured to have her country participate in INVICTUS GAMES DÜSSELDORF 2023 presented by Boeing. “However, it is difficult for us to be here while our sons, daughters, fathers and brothers are on the front line defending the country’s freedom,” she said.

Visibly moved and fighting tears, the Minister expressed how grateful she was for the support not only from the European countries. This is evident at all times during the Invictus Games and especially during the march-in of the nations at the Opening Ceremony.

Yulia Laputina was confident that Ukraine can claim victory “not only militarily, but also mentally”. This is also what the name Invictus stands for. At the end of her remarks, she asked for a minute’s silence for the fallen soldiers, unusual for a press conference as well.

Yuliia Paevska, battle name Taira, Ukrainian paramedic was a prisoner of war in Russia for three months. She was tortured there. Hence her appeal: “Terror and war crimes happen here too.” Despite the enormous pain she has suffered, she is unbroken.

The spirit of the Invictus Games is for her hope, strength and confidence. “It brings nations together,” she says. The friendly interaction with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, made a big impression on her. “He is a comrade in arms for me,” Taira pointed out, before concluding, “I will keep fighting.”

Nazar Vozniuk was a lawyer before the war. With the start of the war, he enlisted as a soldier. He is overwhelmed by the wave of sympathy and solidarity. He sees Ukrainian flags everywhere on the streets, in the windows, on trams and also here in the MERKUR SPIEL-ARENA.

“This support is wonderful and I am full of hope that we will prevail,” says Nazar Vozniuk. The Invictus Games help him hold on to this hope and gain confidence in a normal life after the war: “The Invictus Games make us stronger.”

Julia Shevchuk wanted to be a scientist before the war. Then she enlisted in the medical service. She too is an ardent supporter of the indomitable spirit of the Invictus Games. “Nothing holds us back, we are unstoppable,” declared Shevchuk. The competitors help each other as if they were one big family. “Walls we tear down, barriers give us wings. That is the spirit with which we will win, and that is also Invictus Games,” said Julia Shevchuk. She is sure: “We will win the war and then live a peaceful life.”

Author: Sönke Willms-Heyng