Homeland part II
‘On the first days of war, I expected Russian skateboarders and society to gather against Putin, and Russian federation aggressive invasion to Ukraine. Instead, nothing happened.’
Interview with Tevkun Mykhailo
Association Skateboarding Ukraine
What is ‘Association Skateboarding Ukraine’ and what did you do prior to the war?
Skate Ukraine is a registered non-profit Community Organization “Association Skateboarding Ukraine”. I am the founder of A.S.U., Tevkun Mykhailo. 30 y.o., skating for 16 years. Currently moved to Lviv, Ukraine. A.S.U. was founded in 2015, it’s the leading community for skateboarding in Ukraine, built by hands of skateboarders with close-to-zero government support. The purpose is to support and develop skateboarding in Ukraine. We’ve got 14 regional departments with 200+ members, @skateukraine UGC (user generated content) resource on Instagram. Also, we consult Ukrainian skatepark companies and help with petitions to build spots and parks. Many other things to mention: events, coaching, cooperation with other communities, support of young brands etc. Our aim is to recognize skateboarding as a sport in Ukraine and integrate to international community of skateboarders.
Now with the war unfolding in your country, you seem to have a different purpose. How difficult is it to balance skateboarding and the war?
You are right, the main purpose has changed dramatically. There’s quite a few factors to mention: Air raid sirens, 20% occupied territories, destroyed cities, war crimes, dead civilians, looting, rape, killed friends, lost homes, emigration, fuel shortage, insomnia, scrolling news 24/7, PTSD and finally, nuclear threats. This list makes the purpose obvious: stop the war in Ukraine asap before it’s not too late! It’s kinda weird to go skateboarding, feeling guilt for having good times skating, while people struggle for our freedom. Still, everyone needs a way to relax and refresh, skateboarding suits the best for this purpose.
Tell us something about yourself?
I am proud to be Ukrainian, and the Russian Federation wants to eliminate people like me: free, conscious and working to make the world a better place. Aside of skateboarding, I love wakesurfing.
I heard that Ukrainian Men from the age of 18 to 60 are now allowed to leave the country. Is this accurate?
That’s right. Ukrainian government issued the legislative initiative to extend the “war state” in Ukraine till 23rd of August. That means men from 18 to 60 are banned to leave the country. Look, the war continues in Ukraine. This is a war of people for freedom against slavery. I don’t know anyone who was forced to become a “defender”, simply he will not be effective in defending Ukraine. Not everyone should sit with a gun in the trench. Many are more effective in other areas. In particular, in business, the taxes of which fill the budget of a country in war. First days of war I saw the queues of volunteers at the military registration offices who were sent home to wait for vacancies. Besides that, there’s a special initiative that allows certain groups of people to leave Ukraine for 1 month (e.g. volunteers, athletes and their teams etc).
‘It’s kinda weird to go skateboarding, feeling guilt for having good times skating, while people struggle for our freedom. Still, everyone needs a way to relax and refresh, skateboarding suits the best for this purpose.’
How do you feel about the ones that do leave rather than staying home and supporting their homeland?
I feel ok about all Ukrainians, who work to win and defeat the aggressor. Those, who leave or left Ukraine – gain attention at foreign countries, take part in rallies, donate money, find supplies. Those, who fight and defend Ukraine, are the heart of Ukraine. As long as they fight, Ukraine exists as a sovereign country. Those, who stay home in Ukraine, are the people, the roots of our nation: business and support of our defenders. Everybody’s at his own place to be, and supporting each other.
Some of you joined the voluntary battalion to fight against the Russian Invasion. What I learned from on of your IG posts is that when you get injured in the war as volunteer, you are not being looked after by the government. How does the government expect you to help?
We are not fighting for our government (it also has some disadvantages: corruption etc), but we fight for our nation, We are Ukrainians. As I see, in Konan’s post his father lost his leg being at voluntary battalion OUN, which is not a part of Armed Forces of Ukraine. Armed Forces of Ukraine troops have a nice salary, and support of the government.
Since the war broke out, what were some of the most memorable support you have witnessed from the international skate community?
There’s lot to mention, Check Stories Highlights on Insta @skateukraine for more.
1. Together with our international partners, we accumulated 4,200+ euros for @savelife.in.ua and other charity funds;
2. “Skate For Ukraine” event in Netherlands raised 2600 euros in one day event for Giro 555 Ukraine;
3. Thrasher Magazine posted the Documentary “Revolutions on Granite”, thanks for raising awareness through the perspective of skateboarding;
4. World Skate initiated a ban of Russian skateboarders from all international competitions;
5. Jamie Thomas, Oskar Rozenberg, Kenny Reed, Nestor Judkins, Jordan Maxham and many other pros showed support to Ukrainian skateboarders.
6. Zero Skateboards issued a limited edition deck to support @skateukraine upcoming Go Skateboarding Day event, and donated 500$ and 15 skateboard decks.
We’d like to say “Thank You” to the sponsors, skaters, artists, filmers, photographers, volunteers and everybody supporting. We do not feel alone in this fucking war. Also, it’s funny to mention Berrics. Few days before war, they addressed a post to Joe Biden, asking not to fight in the unfolding war. Shameful post, the person in charge of it, doesn’t know the context, unfortunately. Of course, they could use the platform to raise awareness about what’s going on, but they stopped responding after a while. Thanks for a “no war” position, though. Read Wikipedia “Russian Invasion 2022”.
‘Those, who leave or left Ukraine – gain attention at foreign countries, take part in rallies, donate money, find supplies. Those, who fight and defend Ukraine, are the heart of Ukraine.’
How can the international skate community continue to support you guys?
Donate to save lives in Ukraine. Subscribe to our Instagram account @skateukraine. Participate in online skateboard challenge #SkateWithUkraine. Spread the information. Show some love.
After the release of the first Ukrainian story in here, someone in the UK approached me willing to take on skater refugees. Do you think there is a need for it?
Yep, we will post this interview at our Instagram account, so feel free to offer support to skater refugees from Ukraine in UK. I shall just add a list of other people and organizations willing to help:
🇦🇹 Salzburg, Austria
🇵🇱 Gdańsk, Poland
🇫🇷 Bordeaux, France
🇱🇹 Vilnius, Lithuania
🇧🇷 Florianopolis, Brazil
🇱🇻 Riga, Latvia
🇩🇪 Hannover, Germany
What is your view on banning skaters from Russia and Belarus from international competitions?
Absolutely, yes. But it’s more complicated than it may seem.
The international ban was not initiated by our organization, but actively supported. That was a straight ban of World Skate following the recommendations of International Olympic Committee.
Let’s talk about Belarus skaters first. We have a good relationships with Skateboarding Federation of Belarus, cooperated at many events. People of Belarus are hostages of the authoritarian President Lukashenko. Fake elections, opposition suppression, soviet union past admiration, single man ruling the country for 30 years (during our 30 years in Ukraine we elected 5 Presidents). Massive meetings were suppressed by the police, hundreds were sent to jail. RF just uses Belarus territory to locate their armed forces. Talking about Russian skaters. They always called us “brothers”. But does the “brother” stand aside when you are being bombed/killed/raped? First days we had false hopes, that Russian people do have their own voice and self respect. But now those illusions are left behind, Russian population will not make significant change to political situation inside their country. But they forgot, that someday Putin will pass away, criminal poverty will be sent to jail, but the responsibility will lay on shoulders of fellow people (read: billions of reparations for Ukraine, hatred of Russian people worldwide etc)
Talking about ban, 95% Russian participants of international competitions (Russian Federation skate athletes) said no words regarding war in Ukraine. Cause they are afraid, helplessness is a usual part of their life. Taboo to show anti war position: 15 years of jail.
Only the minority of, let’s say, “underground” skateboarders from Russia wrote messages of support with a true spirit of skateboarding in their hearts. They clearly see that a global crime is happening right now, and they also dream the war will end soon. I see how horrified they are. They don’t participate in international competitions, headed by World Skate, so this ban will not influence them.
‘Also, it’s funny to mention Berrics. Few days before war, they addressed a post to Joe Biden, asking not to fight in the unfolding war. Shameful post, the person in charge of it, doesn’t know the context, unfortunately.’
Taken from your IG:
‘Life is about “to be”, not “to seem”. Skateboarders know it very well. Unfortunately, Russian skateboarders don’t and become the collaborationists of war against humanity, happening right now in Ukraine.’ Do you really think Russian skateboarders are actively supporting the war?
Yes, I do. At least, they remain silent, slaves of regime. We posted on Instagram the announcement of Russian Federation Skate skate that “there will be no significant changes for athletes from Russia and they can participate under neutral flag”. In fact, that’s absolutely bullshit, they are clearly banned from international competitions, read World Skate announcement. Perfect example of Russian propaganda, they call black as white, and the opposite.
What do you expect from Russian skateboarders?
On the first days of war, I expected Russian skateboarders and society to gather against Putin, and Russian federation aggressive invasion to Ukraine. Instead, nothing happened. No expectations. Of course, I have adequate friends from Russia, living in other countries. But that’s the minority of them.
‘Cause they (Russian skaters) are afraid, helplessness is a usual part of their life. Taboo to show anti war position: 15 years of jail.’
I looked up Russian Skateboard Federation on IG. I do not read or speak Russian but there seems to be no reference to the war. Do you think their voices is suppressed by the Russian government?
There are some facts:
1. Russian fed skate issued not a single word about the invasion in Ukraine, they ignored our communication requests in the beginning of war. “Let’s talk after war” – that’s what they answer. After war, when the army will kill all Ukrainians?!!
2. Open source information tells us, that Fed Skate Rus is a part of government-controlled structure “Lokomotiv”. It’s a sport community based on “Russian Railways Company”. RRC is the main supplier of tanks, ammunition and troops to occupied territories of Ukraine. Russian armed forces sucked at capturing Kyiv, Sumy and Kharkiv region, because they didn’t have access to railways. Since their failure, they try to capture big railway centers in eastern Ukraine to keep the supplies going.
3. Lokomotiv has already a dirty reputation, regarding many cases of doping, “unfair play” and scandals with IOC. These measures are truly hidden and supported by Russian government. Can you try to take interview with them, guys?
I try. When I reached out to you, you were in the middle of a skate contest which I assume provides some sort of hope and normality. How difficult is it to get this organized in a country that is confronted with war?
The life goes on, every human adapts to new conditions. Some people feel self-guilt, other have a “survivor syndrome”. But if we make a lot to support Ukraine, then we deserve a ‘normal life’ things, entertainment, holidays etc. That’s what our defenders are struggling for every day –independent well- being of Ukraine. Therefore, I had no problems to organize this event. Thanks to Vitalii Hulian (follow @lvivskateboarding) and the rest of the sponsors, who gathered immediately after we announced the contest.
If you could interview a person, who would it be and why?
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine. I voted for him and proud of him too. He had many successful projects (among them roads, skateparks, social programs) before war and keeps on 24/7 communication for Ukraine worldwide. Thank you, Mr.President!
Slava Ukraini! Thanks for attention! Thanks Michele for interviewing me.
‘Thank you, Mr.President!’