Friday, June 14, 2024

Ukrainian refugee finds wrestling success in United States

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CARY, N.C. — In times of turmoil and distress, sports have proven to be a beacon of hope, bringing communities together and providing solace to those in need. This sentiment rings true for 16-year-old wrestler Denys Tsap, whose journey from war-torn Ukraine to Cary, North Carolina, exemplifies the power of sports in healing and resilience.


What You Need To Know

  • Denys Tsap, 16, his brother Nazar, 11, and his mother Svitlana live in North Carolina as part of President Joe Biden’s Uniting for Ukraine refugee program
  • He is a top wrestler in the state of North Carolina, bringing over skills he learned from wrestling in Ukraine
  • Tsap is competing in a national tournament in Fargo, North Dakota, in July
  • His family is raising money to help fund his aspirations of wrestling at a high level


Escaping the ravages of war last August under President Joe Biden’s Uniting for Ukraine Refugee Program, Denys Tsap, alongside his 11-year-old brother and mother, found themselves in a new country, far from the comfort of home. Their father remains in Ukraine, adding to the weight of uncertainty looming over the family.

“Of course I miss home. I think everybody who moved is missing their homes. But yeah, I’m thinking about this often,” Tsap said. 

(Courtesy Svitlana Gumenyuk)

Wrestling has been Tsap’s refuge, a sanctuary where he can momentarily escape the harsh realities of displacement and loss. Despite the challenges, he has emerged as one of the top wrestlers in North Carolina for his age, weight and style, earning him a spot in the upcoming national championship tournament in Fargo, North Dakota, and an invitation to represent North Carolina in the National Dual Wrestling Competition in Utah.

“He was way ahead with free style of course, and he is with the kids in the area and in the state,” Cary Wrestling Club head coach Jerry Winterton said of Tsap’s skill. “But for scholastic wrestling, it’s all brand new. All he’s gotta do is expose that back. He has his own little quirks, that other kids don’t necessarily know.” 

(Courtesy Svitlana Gumenyuk)

The financial burden of these tournaments weighs heavily on the family, refugees navigating a new life with limited resources. Yet, amid their struggles, the outpouring of support from the community underscores the generosity and compassion of the American spirit.

“No telling what kind of distress this family has been through. Move halfway across the world, to a whole new place, different language, but they’ve all adjusted very well. All good people,” Winterton said.

Despite being a formidable wrestler, Tsap faces a challenging road ahead, as only two North Carolina students have placed in the last 25 years of the national tournament. While wrestling provides a temporary distraction, Tsap’s mother, Svitlana Gumenyuk, acknowledges the challenges her children face, expressing gratitude for the unity they find in each other and the joy wrestling brings.

“We left all of our friends, we changed school, this is a new country, different people, and the sport was maybe one thing which help him here,” Gumenyuk said. “Of course I’m proud as a mother that they are always together, help each other, and they have a chance to be together, because not all people and kids in Ukraine have this chance to be together now.” 

(Courtesy Svitlana Gumenyuk)

Despite the uncertainty that clouds their future, Tsap and his family remain grateful for the support they’ve received, both financially and emotionally. As they navigate their new reality, they hold onto the hope of returning to a peaceful Ukraine one day, where they can rebuild their lives. With a GoFundMe campaign surpassing $2,500, the family is one step closer to realizing Tsap’s wrestling dreams and forging a brighter future in their temporary adopted homeland.

“I really thankful for everybody helping me. It’s really happy for me, I know it’s a big money for me, for my family,” Tsap said. 

As Tsap and his family continue to grapple with the complexities of displacement and uncertainty, their resilience and gratitude serve as a testament to the enduring power of sports to inspire hope and unity in the face of adversity.

To donate to their GoFundMe, you can click this link.

The Gofundme.com site is not managed by Spectrum News. For more information on how the site works and the rules visit http://www.gofundme.com/safety

 

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