Athletics

Ukrainian Native, USU Guard Speaks Out on Russian Invasion

By Mark Greenwood |

USU men's basketball player Max Shulga, a Ukrainian native, spoke on the recent Russian invasion of his home country. (Photo by the Utah Statesman)

Utah State Today regularly highlights work created by the talented student journalists at Utah State University. The following story was published in The Utah Statesman prior to its inclusion in Utah State Today.

The ongoing Russian military invasion of Ukraine has become a worldwide issue and talking point. People and countries across the globe have voiced public concern and support for Ukraine, including here in Utah.

For one member of the Utah State community, the invasion hits home.

Max Shulga, a guard for Utah State Men’s Basketball, is a Ukrainian citizen and a native of Kyiv.

“I grew up in Ukraine, moved out when I was 13,” said Shulga in a video posted by Utah State basketball on Tuesday. “It doesn’t feel real. Our humanity just grew out of declaring wars, but that was in the past. Obviously, it’s a real thing now.”

Shulga hasn’t lived in Ukraine for several years, but still has family that lives in Ukraine. For Shulga, the recent weeks have been filled with emotion and uncertainty.

“There’s a lot of emotions, mixed emotions. When I’m calling my parents, I’m happy to see them, but at the same time I know there are relatives of other people dying out there, fighting for our country.” Shulga said. “I’m obviously happy to see my family healthy and safe, but at the same time I’m mad that all this is going on and I can’t do anything.”

The public outpour and show of support from the Aggie community for Shulga has not been light. During USU’s final home game of the season, a moment of silence was held in support of Shulga and Ukraine before tip-off. In addition, Utah State students at the game were given blue and yellow papers that they all held up, making a Ukrainian flag when Shulga entered the game for the first time.

“One of the guys from the student section told me they had a surprise for me in the game, so I kind of expected it, but not to that extent,” Shulga said about the gesture. “That was really good, I enjoyed that moment and I appreciate the support.”

In addition to the public support for Shulga, his teammates are right behind him as well, making sure he is doing alright and taken care of through this uncertainty.

“I’m checking in with him all the time, we all are,” head coach Ryan Odom said in a press conference before their final home game. “It’s not easy, I’m sure there are parts of him that just want to go home and be with his family to help; realizing that’s out of his control all we’re trying to do is be there to support and help as best we can.”

The Aggie’s star forward Justin Bean shared his praise of Shulga as well after the Colorado State game.

“Max is an incredible person. He’s kind of updating us on how (his family) are doing,” Bean said. “He’s more positive than others would think with what he’s going through. That speaks volumes on who he is. He’s awesome and we love him. We’re always going to support him whatever he’s doing.”

While the unknowns for Shulga continue, he has faith in the people of his home country.

“Very tough, very tough people. Very patriotic. We will stand our ground until we fall basically, that is it,” Shulga said. “I just want to say we’re going to win, for sure. We just have to stand through these tough first days and then I hope, and I know it will go smoother.”

Members of the HURD hold up signs showing solidarity to Ukraine. (Photo by Joseph F Myers)

WRITER

Mark Greenwood
Student Reporter
The Utah Statesman
editor@usustatesman.com

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