Sport brings us together. Not only in competitions and victories, but also in difficult moments when it matters even more. And it’s not for nothing that biathlon is a family, a biathlon family.
The war in Ukraine is also felt strongly by Ukrainian athletes. That is why Pokljuka immediately responded to the request of Uroš Velepec, the Slovenian coach who leads the Ukrainian women’s A-biathlon team, to help the biathletes from Ukraine. We offered them accommodation and training at the Sports Centre Triglav Pokljuka. The centre also opened a hotel, which is usually closed in April.
Since mid-March until now we have welcomed more than 60 citizens of Ukraine, 41 of them mostly young biathletes, among them Darja Blaško, a member of the Ukrainian A-team, 4 coaches and 1 doctor, former A-team member Jana Romanenko, and others who are also in one way or another connected with biathlon.
The first to arrive in Pokljuka were four young Ukrainian biathletes who were unable to return home from the Winter European Youth Olympic Festival in Finland. Others followed. They are in the process of training, but we are also trying to provide them with other things, from the appropriate permits they need to stay, to the resources that the state will provide, as well we are trying to socially integrate them into local environment. We are also trying to make sure that they can be involved in the educational process. We are talking to the Gorje Primary School and to the France Prešeren Gymnasium Kranj about how to involve secondary school students. Contact has also been established with the Municipality of Bohinj. Most of them, about two thirds, are secondary school students, there are some faculty students and eight school-age children. We are also liaising with the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, the Youth Office and other organisations that help integrate adolescents into their current environment.
They come from different parts of Ukraine. We offer them everything that is optimally possible at the moment – not only accommodation and food, but we also try to accommodate them with other things that count in the situation in which they are put. Last week we took them on a trip to Ljubljana, where they saw the centre and had the opportunity to buy things they needed in the shopping centre, and the next day we took them to Bled, to Bled Castle and then for a swim. In the next week they will also visit Škocjan caves and Lipica.
As mentioned earlier, there are also four coaches with the biathletes in Pokljuka. The snow conditions in Pokljuka are still very good. At the beginning of April, 40 cm of fresh snow fell and the slopes are groomed. They can prepare for the new season. Uroš Velepec stays in touch with them, advises them …, and is also the link with the Ukrainian Biathlon Federation.
Training conditions remain quite good in the second half of April as well, as snow training is still possible, and the Sports Centre Triglav Pokljuka also takes care of the regular grooming of the cross-country skiing trails.
They will stay at the Hotel Center in Pokljuka, which is normally closed in April, until 4 May, when we have the first groups of the summer programme. But we will continue to provide them with help and service after that as well.
It is, of course, everyone’s wish that the war should end as soon as possible, and that they should then gradually be able to return to their homeland. Until then, we will continue to do our best to make them feel safe and welcome here