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There's no safe place in Ukraine now: Muzychuk sisters

The Times of India logo The Times of India 03-12-2022 Archiman Bhaduri
© Provided by The Times of India

KOLKATA: On February 24 this year, the Muzychuk sisters - Anna and Mariya woke up to a grim reality that the war had reached their doors with Russian bombing Lviv, a city in western Ukraine sharing a border with Poland. The two Ukrainian Grandmasters had to leave their homeland and make their way to Spain through Germany.

"We are still in Spain now," Ana told TOI during an interaction on Friday. "We have our parents, grandparents, friends all there. Although we are in touch with them, there's no safe place in Ukraine now and you worry all the time. Only few days back a bomb landed quite near our apartment," she narrated.

But it's chess that has perhaps kept the sisters going. And maybe they were born to play the game only, much like the Hungarian Polgar sisters - Judit, Susan and Sofia.

"Our case is pretty much similar to the Polgars as we started playing chess when we were two years old," stated younger sister Mariya. "Our life was very different from other children as we dedicated all our time to chess which led to missing school often," she added.

"Our parents were chess players and graduated into professional coaches and it was their idea. But it was not forced upon us and we were free to choose other fields if we didn't like chess. But somehow we both liked it," smiled Anna.

The sisters, however, brought some happy news for their war-ravaged countrymen by playing a big part in winning gold in the Chess Olympiad in August this year. "It's very special as earlier we had won individual medals but this was one of our dreams to win the first team gold," the 30-year-old Mariya stated.

Her two-year older sister, however, felt happy that the results went their way despite not getting any time to prepare as a team. "It was strange to see that we were representing Ukraine but all players arrived from different parts of Europe (due to war)," Anna said.

The sisters have always been bold in their stands. In 2017, Anna, a three-time World rapid and blitz champion refused to defend her titles in Saudi Arabia as a protest against the treatment of women there. Her younger sibling also withdrew from the women's World Chess Championship in Iran out of protest for being obligated to wear a hijab.

"It was a difficult decision to forgo my titles then. But it's not that we want to be popular and do something so that people talk about it. We are just ourselves and do what we believe is the right thing to do, but at the same time we never do anything bad to others," Anna stated.

In spite of raising a controversy then, Mariya has no regret. "I am really thankful for so many people supporting our stand," she said.

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