ROME — Most members of the Ukrainian women’s synchronized swim team arrived in Rome on Tuesday after fleeing the war in their homeland with Italian help.
Ten athletes and two coaches traveled in a bus provided by the Italian swimming federation from the Ukraine-Hungarian border to Rome.
Italian swimming officials greeted the athletes, who will continue their training at Italian Olympic facilities in Ostia, a seaside suburb of the Italian capital, as they prepare for the European Aquatics Championships to be held in Rome in August.
The UN says the number of people who have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion has reached 2 million, and many more are still trying to get out.
While grateful, the athletes are worried about loved ones left behind in Ukraine.
Maryna Aleksiiva, who arrived with her twin sister Vladyslava, both Olympic bronze medalists, described the athletes as being « terrified about our relatives, our friends who are still in Ukraine, because it is too dangerous, because every day (children and other civilians) die. »
She added: « We know that in Ukraine those who protect us are dying, but we had to go away and leave our city. This was very hard. »
The team members, whose ages range from 14 to 20, set out last weekend, departing from their base in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which has been heavily attacked. They headed to Lviv, a Ukrainian city near the border with Poland, then ultimately made their way to Hungary, where Italian athletic officials met them and escorted them to Rome.
Four teammates and three coaches are still in Ukraine, including Olympic bronze medalist Marta Fiedina. The Italian swimming federation is arranging to have them arrive in Italy in the next few days.