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Weeks After Winning an Olympic Silver Medal, This Ukrainian Skier is Living Through War

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Ukraine’s only medalist at the 2022 Winter Olympics has been living in a parking garage in Kyiv with his wife and child to avoid the Russian bombardment. In February, Oleksandr Abramenko, 33, claimed silver in the aerial freestyle skiing competition in Beijing, giving Ukraine its sole medal at the Games. Abramenko was the reigning Olympic champion in the event from 2018. He returned home just before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. On Friday, Abramenko text-messaged with The New York Times and revealed that he was hunkered down with his wife, Alexandra, and their two-year-old son, Dmitry, in the garage.

The underground concrete structure, he said, was safer than his apartment.“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko told the Times. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

The plight of Ukraine’s athletes has taken center stage amid the Russian invasion. Some athletes have taken up arms in the war, while others have used their platforms to rally international support for their country. Its most famous athletes—retired heavyweight boxers and brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko—have fought to defend Kyiv, where Vitali is the current mayor. Abramenko is unsure of whether he will fight in the Ukrainian army or help his family flee as international refugees. They intended to flee Kyiv over the weekend for the town of Mukachevo on Ukraine’s western border.

After that, the 33-year-old did not know what the future held for him.“I don’t know if I’ll go to war or not, I don’t know what process the guys who are being called up are going through,” he said.