In addition to the club, Victoria’s stay in the Rotterdam district of Kralingen was a refugee shelter for a week and a half. “Although what is happening in Ukraine is terrible, I think it is very special to see what we can achieve as a club.”
Last Monday at around 7am, Young Ukraine’s players and staff entered their temporary accommodation for the first time, after a long journey from a country that has sowed death and destruction for four weeks now. Their scars were still fresh. For some, it has only been a few days since they spent the night in a bomb shelter. Most of them had nothing more than a trolley bag with them. But now that they had arrived safely, they almost all had the same desire. They wanted to play hockey. as soon as possible.
“It was very touching to see these girls playing hockey that day. Umm I say: these kids. Some of them are only 15 or 16 years old,” said Alexander Renner, the man Victoria appointed as coordinator of the reception team that founded the club.
“They’ve been through the most horrible things. They feared for their lives and the lives of their family and friends. They still do the latter. Most of them didn’t have any hockey equipment with them, of course, so we quickly grabbed a stick and some clothes and sneakers in their hands. Less than two hours after Their arrival was already in the field. Hockey is played every day in this club, so this was actually a very common sight. But that is exactly why it was so special.
The changing rooms are now full of bunk beds
Since the Victoria Hockey branch, in conjunction with the club’s tennis and squash division, decided to host the Ukraine girls’ team, the club has undergone a transformation in record time. The meeting room these days lives as a living room. For example, suddenly there is a PlayStation in it. Tables and chairs were pushed aside to make room for beanbags.
The group of about thirty refugees sleep on bunk beds in the changing rooms. In places where conversations are usually serious about processing management, people are suddenly talking about the latest aerial bombardment.
The family was donated by an anonymous donor, who almost immediately decided to buy the contents of a youth hostel closed due to Corona after hearing about the arrival of the Ukrainian team. A free car with one phone call was arranged for our pick up. Getting the family together was easy, too. Instead of hanging out at the bar, many hockey players decide to roll up their sleeves after their training. In total, the entire process – from ordering to assembly – took less than two days.
Something similar happened last Tuesday, when a family of father, mother and two sisters (nine and four years old) of one of the team players arrived at the club after a 36-hour flight. Or maybe they can sleep somewhere? Inside the club, someone soon made her apartment available in Oud-Beijerland. Only there was one problem. It was not furnished. Veterinnen A dared to take up the challenge of submitting a complete inventory as quickly as possible. Within 48 hours, there were not only beds and chairs, the refrigerator was also full, there were children’s toys and flowers in a vase.
They had a comment about breakfast. Those raisin shortbread cookies you don’t need anymore. Currant buns, ha!
“The first night the team slept at our club, I was really nervous,” Renner says. We’ve tried to think of everything, but you’re dealing with traumatized kids. I had no idea how they would experience that first night. So the next morning I immediately asked them how they slept. They replied that sleeping was not a problem. They only had a comment on the breakfast. Those exotic biscuits with raisinsThey no longer need it. Currant buns, ha! Well, that was a burden to my heart. If that’s the biggest problem, currant pancakes…”
Not only from the inside, but also from outside the club, Victoria gets a helping hand collectively. One corner of the club was created as a clothing store. There are dozens of shoes on the floor. On tables and chairs, hang jeans, summer jackets, cardigans, blouses, skirts, jogging pants, bras, cardigans, tights, dresses, stockings, tops, pants, long shirts, and short-sleeved shirts. Much of it – 25 bags full – comes from their opponents at the Under-21 World Cup in South Africa. Peers of Young Orange.
The mood can only change when someone receives a call from the home front
Over the past few days, you could hear some of the Ukrainian words Minis uttered to Victoria. But it wasn’t just FC Rotterdam that brought a piece of Ukraine home. International youth refugees are also introduced to the Dutch hockey infrastructure.
Soon after they arrived, they noticed something amazing in the average Dutch hockey player. Something they hadn’t seen before. It turned out to be a little.
Before they went to have a look at the main-class match Amsterdam-Orange-Red last Sunday afternoon, they planned to start training. It was to their great surprise when it turned out that this was not possible. They did not expect for a second that all five fields of Victoria could be occupied all morning.
At the same time, their presence is accompanied by intense emotional moments. In those times when they are enjoying playing chess in the club, the mood can only change when someone gets a phone call from home with bad news. Or someone else browsing a news app reads that their city has been bombed. When they played a practice match against the Hilversum Girls A1 last Thursday, some of them hardened when someone along the side with the best of intentions suddenly fired a confetti cannon.
“You can tell from things like this how new everything is still,” Renner says. Fortunately, Yentl Leemans from Ladies 1 has followed a course in Child Psychology. Eva from Dames 5 works for Refugee Action. We watch the pulse with people like them.
Now see what can happen when the hockey community commits to something with a big heart
Renner himself participates in the club as a coach for the 6E3 girls. The most usual thing he does is switch his daughter. He is now suddenly the coordinator of a reception team of thirty traumatized war refugees.
Renner felt called to action. He is the son of a refugee. Like the Ukrainians today, his father escaped from Russian tanks in Czechoslovakia when they invaded Prague in 1968. Because of my background, I know what it means to people in need when they receive help. That’s why I’m so glad we can do this. Now you see what can happen when the hockey community commits to something with a big heart. It’s amazing what the arrival of Young Ukraine to the club did. The reason is of course terrible, but the ability to help people brings something wonderful.