From Ukraine to Portugal: How producer Yaroslava Shumyk escaped her war-torn country to begin a new life working for the Portuguese Football Federation

Yaroslava Shumyk, a Ukrainian refugee, is now a producer at Canal 11, which is owned and operated by the Portuguese Football Federation

One year on from the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, SVG Europe Women spoke to refugee from her homeland, Yaroslava Shumyk, now a producer at Canal 11, which is owned and operated by the Portuguese Football Federation.

With International Women’s Day upon us, we begin our tribute to the women of sports broadcasting with Shumyk’s memories in her own words of her and her children’s flight from Ukraine, to Portugal where she now resides and works in sports broadcasting.

“I left Kyiv with my kids on 28 February 2022. It was hard decision to make because all my relatives said that I must stay, that it is safe in Kyiv, and the basement we have been to as of 24 February is solid.

“Only by brother supported my inside silent screaming: RUN! RUN NOW!

“It was the first day when the bridges were open in Kyiv; we’d been on the left bank, and to get to the railway station we had to pass the bridge over the Dnipro River. At the first night in the shelter, a basement, I heard one shot of a missile which shot the civil building next to my son’s kindergarten. That it was enough for me to understand that I must leave Ukraine to save my kids.

“The road to the railway station by public transport took around four hours, which usually is up to one hour. When I came to railway station, I saw that there was an evacuation train to Warsaw on the schedule. The father of my kids stayed with us till the entrance on the platform, where the military stopped everybody who was not taking the train.

“My son was not letting go of the hand of his father till that moment, and he was crying heavily when he had to do it.

“I took two backpacks, one plastic bag with the potty for kids. My younger daughter was in baby carriage, and I was keeping hold of my son’s hand. We ran to the train because all the people started running. I was screaming that I’m with small kids, and I was let in first.

“Our baby carriage stuck on the entrance of the coach, with dozens of people behind, pushing. I was helped by train conductor, who was calm, professional, and supporting. Nobody understood what the war was at that moment. But the train crew where so calm, explaining when to switch off phones, why the lights should be off, why the train doesn’t have any signs. People were sleeping all over the corridor, and I was walking with the kid’s potty to the WC over their heads. By the way, taking the potty was the smartest decision to make, even with extra bag!

“We were on road for 26 hours. The regular train from Kyiv to Warsaw takes around 12 hours. When we came to Warsaw, volunteers helped me to get to the refugees’ centre. It was in the hall of a big sports arena; ironic. But there was everything we needed at that moment; many toys for kids, temporary beds to sleep in, showers with hot water. We were lucky to leave the refugee centre the next day when the lady lawyer who came to explain our legal possibilities told me, “this is not a place for children, be my guest at my home”.

“We stayed for two weeks at the apartment of Marta with her family. And then for 1.5 weeks with another of Marta’s family. I will cherish the decision of those Polish women for my whole life. But, staying at one flat with another family having kids of two and three years old was very complicated, because they were crying a lot, and I decided that I need to find a separate apartment.

“I started to make a list of my international colleagues literally all over the world – the whole of Europe, the USA, Japan, and Mexico – to ask for support, information about a place to stay, and a job when I was in that train to Warsaw. I knew it was my only chance.

“Almost everybody responded with different kind of support, and it was lifesaving. In mid-March my colleague Marco from Portugal whom I have known for 15 years since we met in Donetsk, Ukraine at the Champions League match, sent me a message, “I have the good news for you”.

“He told my story to the Football Federation of Portugal, and they decided to offer me and the kids a place to stay and a job with contract for one year. They asked for my CV, and offered me the position of producer on Canal 11, their own channel.

“It was a miracle, and we moved to Portugal.”

Read how Yaroslava Shumyk got into sports broadcasting in our new profile article looking at her career and experiences here

Yaroslava Shumyk was the recipient of the SVG Europe Sports Broadcasting Fund. Click here to find out more about the fund and how it can help you and those in need

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