Galychanka Lviv found second home in Czech Republic
For HC Galychanka Lviv, the current European season has been quite a success. In the EHF European Cup Women, the Ukrainian champions eliminated HK Hodonin, IUVENTA Michalovce, SSV Brixen Sudtirol and H71 to reach the semi-final, where they were drawn to face the Spanish side Rocasa Gran Canaria.
However, there has been a lot of anxiety and restlessness in the team in the dramatic recent weeks, after the war in Ukraine broke out on 24 February. But Galychanka will continue to compete for the European trophy, as they had an opportunity to temporarily relocate to Czech Republic.
The Ukrainian team were given a helping hand by HK Hodonin, their first rivals in the current EHF European Cup season. Last October, the clubs agreed to play both matches in Lviv, as the Czech team’s hall was damaged by a tornado. They established good relations, and now the Czech side provided Galychanka with a place for training and the first match against Rocasa, which will be held on Saturday.
“Hodonin offered us this option, and our president Roman Fedishin agreed. Everything was decided in two days, and we had just three hours to pack our bags,” says Galychanka assistant coach Tetyana Shtefan.
“It was a hard decision. The girls didn't want to leave Ukraine during the war, as their parents and husbands stayed at home. But then we calmed down and decided to go to Czech Republic. After all, we have an opportunity to train and represent Ukraine,” she added.
Shtefan has been at the helm of the team during all this time. Head coach Vitaliy Andronov initially did not have an opportunity to leave Ukraine, but the 49-year-old has meanwhile joined his team and will coach them in both games against Rocasa.
For the whole Galychanka team, escaping Ukraine was not easy.
“I went by car with my mother, who is unable to walk, and we had to wait two and a half days on the border. And the girls got stuck for eight hours before crossing the border on foot,” Shtefan recalls.
Hodonin sent a bus to the Ukrainian-Slovakian border to pick up the Galychanka team, but it also had to wait for a long time.
“We didn’t know where the team would cross the border. Our bus stopped for more than one day in Michalovce, the driver kept calling and writing text messages so that he could pick up the players at the crossing,” the Czech team’s manager Radek Bican says.
Galychanka are very grateful to HK Hodonin, the city of Hodonin and the Southmoravian region for giving them a shelter.
“We have all necessary conditions here – a good hotel, food, hall, and gym. And there are actually quite a lot of Ukrainians in this region, so I think we will have enough support. Some people will even come from Poland,” the assistant coach says.
However, in the current situation it is hard for the players to focus on handball.
“The atmosphere is tense. We are worried about our friends and relatives in Ukraine. However, we do our best at the trainings and hope to put up a good game against Rocasa,” team captain Tetiana Poliak says.
Shtefan seconds the words of the captain.
“It is mentally very hard to see what is going on in our country. The worst thing is that many people are dying, men and women, and we are far from our loved ones. It’s not easy for a coach to motivate the players under these circumstances, but we use different methods, including working with a psychologist. Now we represent not only Galychanka, but the whole of Ukraine.”
The girls didn't want to leave Ukraine during the war, as their parents and husbands stayed at home. But then we calmed down and decided to go to Czech Republic. After all, we have an opportunity to train and represent Ukraine.
How do Galychanka see their chances against Rocasa, the two-time EHF Challenge Cup winners?
“There are no weak teams in the semi-final. They have a good goalkeeper, good shooters, and experienced players in each position. However, we will have our own tactics for the game.”
After the first match, Galychanka will stay in Hodonin to prepare for the second leg, which will be held on 3 April in Telde in the eastern part of Gran Canaria.
After that? They will return to Czech Republic and see what to do next.
“The club president will take a decision,” Shtefan says. “Of course; we all want to come back to Ukraine, and I believe that our team will continue to exist.”