Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy: I dream of a match of victory of good over evil

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Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy: I dream of a match of victory of good over evil

Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy is the honorary president of the RUKH soccer club, a businessman, patron of the arts, and co-owner of the Lviv Tobacco Factory.

Three years before the war, Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy began building the “RUKH” soccer academy around Vynnykivske Lake near Lviv. Today it is one of the most modern soccer development centers in the country, as well as a center of volunteer movement and assistance to children who suffered from Russian aggression.

Before the start of the Ukrainian Premier League (UPL) season, a special correspondent of RBC Ukraine visited the academy base and asked Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy about soccer, social life, business and volunteering. And also he took a blitz-interview with Dmytro Povoroznyuk of the Trendets project, which organizes a summer camp for children based at the academy.

“The UPL will become another page in the history of a strong-willed people.”

– Despite the war, the Ukrainian Premier League season begins on August 23. What are your expectations for the season? They say that many clubs have lost players, so the chances to take the highest places have now appeared in many.

– In fact, not only the clubs at the top lost, but basically all of them. Some more, some less – but all suffered losses.

What were the expectations? – First of all, waiting for a holiday, for a victory. For the start of the championship is another step to our victory. To show that even in such difficult times Ukrainians are a strong, strong-willed nation who loves soccer. Therefore, I think, not only the players and club presidents, but all the fans are waiting for this.

The other day I watched the match “Vorskla” and I really enjoyed the soccer, because this is our Ukrainian team. I was proud of the team, the result, the quality of soccer.

Soccer is a dominant component for Ukrainians. I have always said that our love for soccer is in the blood. Ukraine is like Brazil in Europe.

Soccer has always been played in tougher times. Remember, Dynamo Kyiv played in 1943, the Croats played for four years during the war. I think this will be another page of strong-willed people written in the history of world sports.

– War imposes its own peculiarities. Do you know what extra precautions will be provided during this season?

– Like the rest of the soccer community, I also expect new rules to be enforced during matches. They are not yet known, there is still talk within the realm of rumor and common sense, but exactly what will be introduced is unknown.

But in principle, I know that every club is preparing. Everyone is preparing additional security measures so that players can play soccer in a safe environment.

I think we should wait for the order of the Cabinet of Ministers or a separate order of the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF).

But we are definitely ready to play soccer. We are ready to play in critical conditions, even under rocket fire. We are definitely going to play soccer, definitely will not surrender, definitely will hold the sports front with dignity.

– There will be no fans in the stands.

– There won’t be any fans for sure – that’s 100%. Unless, God forbid, we win by the beginning of the championship. All the players want to play with the fans and the fans want to watch soccer at the stadium. But we have to wait a little bit for our complete victory.

Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy believes that the beginning of the UPL championship is another step to our victory (photo: RBC-Ukraine)

– Is there any particular financial burden on the clubs because of the season during the war?

– You know, it’s different for everyone. For example, if we play in Lviv, the load on Lviv teams will be less. We are, after all, at home, it will be easier for us morally and financially to play soccer.

And clubs from Kharkiv, Odessa and other cities, under constant bombardment – it will be much harder and more expensive for them. But we will help each other, go to each other.

We are all one soccer community and must show in difficult times that we are a single family. That’s very important right now.

– So you do not exclude that the base “RUKH” will be offered to other clubs?

– Not only do not exclude, but I offered many clubs the base on very favorable terms. If someone will be in very critical conditions, we will gladly go to a meeting.

It so happens that our conditions today are a little better, so we are ready to share these conditions with other clubs.

In addition, we have four fields: “Stadion Markiewicz” and three fields at the base. We proposed to the UAF to make these fields as the reserve ones in case of force majeure. The UAF willingly supported our idea.

In fact, on our fields we can play all rounds with an interval of 2-3 days. Realizing that now there can be many unpredictable situations, we ourselves approached the association with such a proposal.

– Lviv region is one of four regions that will host the matches. Do you think the infrastructure is ready for this workload?

– I think so. Lviv region has always had a very developed infrastructure, always very soccer. We have the championship of the region, we have the Football Federation of Lviv region, everything is working very hard. Everyone is looking forward to the UPL. That’s why I am sure that the Lviv region will cope with this task for sure.

“In Poland we found a blood ally.”

– Another question about the expansion of the championship. Have you ever discussed with the UPL management the possibility of expansion and the creation of a separate league with Poland?

– This is my dream. And I voiced it three years ago. When I voiced it, everyone looked at me with skepticism, with great confusion, to put it mildly, as if I was a man who says something incomprehensible. It was funny then, now it’s not funny anymore, it’s real.

I had negotiations with some of the heads of clubs, they are also sympathetic to the idea. Moreover, we met in Poland with the president of the federation, where we also discussed such a possibility. In principle they have an understanding of how to do it. Of course it is hard, but I think that Polish and Ukrainian people during the war showed that we are real brothers.

The Mongols in the Moscow swamp told us that they were brothers. Do we really understand that this is not true, since the Mongols became our brothers? But with the Polish people, despite their difficult history, we have shown that we are brothers.

You know, sometimes it happens in a family, too, when there is a misunderstanding between two brothers. In principle, it’s not quite normal, but it’s not fatal. And those misunderstandings are behind us, because now the Poles and I are showing that we are ready to be together. Poles have shown the whole world that they are ready to fight and were among the first to stand up for Ukraine. It’s worth a lot, and believe me, Ukrainians will never forget it. They will definitely remember it.

In fact, I am glad that I have lived long enough to be able to say that we and the Poles are one people. The war showed who the real brothers and who the real enemies were. We always knew it, but now the whole world knows it. We discovered not just an ally, but a blood ally. Believe me, for hundreds of years our future generations will remember.

Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy: The war showed who the real brothers and who the real enemies are (photo: RBC-Ukraine)

“The war took the Ukrainian DNA out of all Ukrainians.”

– You are these five months in the country, in business, in motion…

– Literally and figuratively…

– How have these months changed Ukraine and Ukrainians?

– I think that the war has made Ukraine more Ukrainian, Lviv, Galician, that is, the values that are more common to Galicians are understood by all. This is devotion to the culture, to the language. We have always fought for it, our language has always been spoken.

The other Ukraine was somehow skeptical of these things, but the war pulled the Ukrainian DNA out of all Ukrainians: both russian-speakers and people who may never have paid attention to it.

Look how many people switched to Ukrainian on principle, learned their native language, began to appreciate it. That is, we realized that Ukraine is where the Ukrainian language is. Because at any time with an inadequate neighbor there is a possible story when he comes and defends the “russian-speaking”. But he is afraid to defend them in America, because he understands that he will be kicked in the head there in three days. Therefore, he is looking for peace-loving countries, which were not preparing for war, living in peace and harmony.

It allowed Ukrainians to think: who we are, what we are, what our genocode is. It worked right now, and now many from Central and Eastern Ukraine are passionately fighting for our independence, for our Ukrainian values.

– How long do you think this war can last?

– I want it to end tomorrow, but in order for it to end, everyone has to do their job. Everyone, like an ant, must contribute to our victory.

How long will the war go on? I am not an analyst, not a military man. But my subjective view is that we will have to fight an inadequate aggressor like russia for another two years.

We will have to learn to live with war like Israel, because with such a neighbor we have no other options. We have to be strong, we have to always be ready to defend our lands, always be ready.

So, unfortunately, we are lucky on the one hand with a neighbor like Poland, a brotherly neighbor. And on the other hand we were unlucky with Mongols who attacked our lands since XIII-XIV centuries and, unfortunately, remained such barbarians. As practice has shown, nothing has changed for them. They still go to the toilet in the woods. For them, the toilet is still a luxury item. They say they use them to drink water and cook food… (laughs)

– Now there are a lot of negative forecasts for the Ukrainian economy. How hard will it be? What should the government do to support business, social sphere?

– It’s already difficult now, but it will be even harder, much harder. You understand, now you don’t have to sit and think what the state will do for business. Now each of us businessmen have to ask questions: what have you done for the state, what have you done for the country, what have you done for the people?

It’s hard for the state. Ukraine is now depressed, as the song sings, and bent over. And our task is to support the country and we must give everything we can and can’t to help the state. And after the war we will definitely build a beautiful country of free people. Ukrainians are very hardworking people, we can do it.

Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy: Everyone has his own front during the war (photo: RBC-Ukraine)

– On the example of the residents of the academy “RUKH”, how do you think the war has affected the children? What will happen to the next generation?

– Children are very responsive and vulnerable. Even if they don’t express their thoughts about the war, they are still very anxious and stressed. I can see even in my own children how they react to sirens, how they feel when they run to the basement during an alarm. This is very painful to watch.

Unfortunately, in the future we will have a whole generation of children who will be called children of war. The only thing worse than that is how many children have already died. I was watching the latest footage from Khmelnitskyy, my heart bleeds when I look at it. There is nothing worse than when children die.

“Many players are ready to join the army right now”.

– How does the war and the overall situation in the country affect the physical and moral state of the players?

– I talked to my players, they are so tired of waiting that they want to act. I have a lot of players that are ready to go to the army even now.

Once we were sitting with the players, I told them: “If it happens so that we all have to go into the army, I will go, we will do our own battalion “Movement”. You know what the guys said to me? – “Petrovich, we’re all with you, we all want to fight, we’ll all defend our country.

I think that every Ukrainian who loves this country – and there are many of them now – is ready to defend it. And believe me, if the time comes – everyone will go to war.

In Galicia everyone is ready to go to war. My grandmother was a Bandera, from the age of 15 she was living in the forest, she fought. It’s in our blood. Everyone – both women and the elderly – will take up arms and fight. There will be shooting bushes, burning earth, we will fight to the end.

Ukrainians will definitely not be living in some yoke so that we will be told by the drills, Mongols or some other Mongol-like people how we should live. It will definitely never be like that here.

According to Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy, most of the players are ready to join the army right now (photo: RBC-Ukraine)

“We are together with the army, together with the people.”

– Is this militant mood probably charged before soccer tournaments as well?

– The fighting spirit is more present than ever. Everyone trains, they don’t give up. We are getting ready, because everyone has a front.

But the guys are not just training. The other day, all the soccer community was collecting aid for the military hospital, we bought two machines for UAH 4 million. A lot of soccer people joined the action: Myron Markevych, Oleksandr Shevchenko, Viktor Vatsko and many others.

I want very much, when the war is over, to gather the doctors who saved our soldiers’ lives and the soldiers themselves who recovered and returned to normal life and to hold the Victory Match. A match of victory over death, a match of victory over the Moscow Mongols. It will be a match of victory of good over evil.

– What is the greatest need for help right now? What other charitable activities are you planning to do?

– We’re working more with our landfill right now, there’s a lot of things we need: from shovels to carimats and other things. A lot of things are needed. But I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about it so the enemy doesn’t know what we’re missing. Let them know that we are working and not stopping. We know what the soldiers’ problems are and we are with the army, with the Ukrainian people.

“Even in times of war, you have to keep the kids busy.”

– Now on the basis of the academy there is a children’s soccer camp Trendets Camp. How did the idea emerge, how difficult was it to organize the enrollment in the current circumstances?

– Dmitriy Povoroznyuk was the initiator of the project. We planned this project last year, and, despite the war, we decided to implement it after all.

We invited more than 800 children to the academy, here they have an opportunity to distract from war and have a good and bright childhood, despite the situation in the country.

About 160 children are the children of our warring soldiers. Many are very children from those families where parents are now on the front lines, protecting us, our calm and our peace.

– These are kids who don’t just play soccer?

– It’s just kids who love soccer, not just those who play soccer professionally. In the camp we have both soccer and many different sports. The kids sing, dance, draw, get creative, take different tests.

We wanted to give the children a month of a different life. Of course, we would like to have more children. But we just aren’t allowed to have more right now. But there are desires and thoughts, and I think we will work on that.

Hryhoriy Kozlovskyy organized together with Dmytro Povoroznyuk a children’s soccer camp Trendets Camp (photo: RBC-Ukraine)

– Is there a set in soccer academy?

– Recruitment to the soccer academy is in full swing. We are recruiting children age 2011-2012. We have already reached the finish line, we have already selected 45 children, they must pass the fourth round. We will select 25-30 kids from each age group.

I talked to the coaches, I said, “How are our kids? They say, “Even stronger than the previous ones. If there was no war, I would leave 45 in each group, but now, unfortunately, I can’t.

Last year we had 35 kids in the academy in 2010. Kids are making progress, they go to tournaments and now live abroad. They are winning everything there. A group of kids aged 2004-2005 recently played English West Ham in the finals. In the semi-finals they beat the Polish champions, and our kids are a year younger.

That is, the academy works and we do not slow down. I am sure that after our victory we will need strong players to represent Ukraine in the international arena.

We need strong players, decent people whom Ukrainians will be proud of. I am very glad that the soccer academy “Ruh” brings up the future stars who will be the pride of this country. The highest grace of man is to allow others to realize their dreams. Consider this my mission in life.

Dmytro Povoroznyuk, head of the Trendets Camp project and founder of the popular YouTube channel Trendets, joins the conversation.

– Tell us about the camp and your project, how did the idea come about?

– Right now the focus of the children is on the war, many of them are experiencing it, many of them are in bomb shelters. And, of course, no one knows when this war will be over. Children are losing their childhood. In order to avoid this we decided to open a Trendets Camp together with “Ruh” where we can gather children from different parts of Ukraine.

There are children from Mariupol, Odessa, Dnipro, Kharkiv, etc. There are a lot of children from the East. Soccer gives them an opportunity to distract from the war. They train together, organize concerts, sing, dance, undergo mental rehabilitation.

No one has the right to take joy away from children, so we have to do everything to make sure they get happiness out of life.

Our sports and social project showed that even during the war you have to keep children busy. When you walk around the yard and see them standing there not knowing what to do or sitting in their cell phones or apartments, we won’t be able to build the future with such a generation. And through sport children develop many useful qualities: discipline, responsibility, team spirit and, of course, love for Ukraine.

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