Croatia legend Darijo Srna explains ‘chaos’ of Ukraine evacuation as UEFA chief intervenes
Darijo Srna is currently director of football at Shakhtar Donetsk, where he spent much of his playing career, and helped the current team leave Kyiv after the Russian invasion.
Former Croatia international captain Darijo Srna has shared details of hours of chaos as he helped Shakhtar Donetsk players out of the Ukrainian capital Kiev amid Russia’s invasion of the country.
The 39-year-old, who played over 500 games for Shakhtar and won 134 international caps, has returned to his former club as director of football after ending his playing career in 2019.
He was in Donetsk in 2014 when the Russian annexation of Crimea took place, and the Donbass-based club have been playing their home games in Kyiv since 2020 and saw one of their youth coaches killed as the fighting continues within Ukrainian borders.
When the invasion began on February 24, the people of Kiev were forced to act quickly, and Srna opened up about the need to make “good decisions” and the help offered by the president of the UEFA, Alexander Ceferin.
“I was calm but I was also scared. I had been there before,” Srna said. The Guardian, explaining that he had already been forced to flee Donetsk three days before the 2014 airport attack.
“The club offered two buses for everyone but there was no one who could tell you: ‘Yes, everything will be fine on the road.’ On the second day the embassies were all saying they couldn’t help, it wasn’t secure, we had to stay in the hotel.
“That’s when you almost start to panic: in the first two days there was so much news, some of it fake, and you start getting a lot of phone calls from friends and family. saying, ‘Get out, get out.’ ‘You’re under pressure and it’s not easy to be calm in that moment.’
“It was kind of a chaos,” added Srna, who helps Shakhtar players and staff travel west while trying to keep his cool while being forced to hunker down in basements. as sirens blare overhead.
He also praised Ceferin’s role in helping with the evacuation, with the UEFA chief helping to coordinate player transport and Ukraine FA chief Andriy Pavelko allowing some of the South Americans on the club’s books to travel to relative safety.
Shakhtar have a long history of recruiting Brazilian players, and one of their current squad members – Brazilian-born Ukraine international Junior Moraes – was put in direct contact with Ceferin.
UEFA via Getty Images)
“Ceferin and Pavelko did a tremendous job,” Srna said after the evacuation.
“They have shown that they are not only top presidents, but also top personalities. Ceferin has taken on this mission as if he were looking after his own family. In war, you find out who is your friend and who is not, who gives you a glass of water and who gives you a glass of milk Today, this seems very important.
Some of Shakhtar’s foreign players have been allowed to leave the country, but many Ukrainian nationals have been forced to stay within its borders, and the club has shared a number of social media posts praising the Shakhtar community. football for his solidarity.
Current Ukraine internationals Oleksandr Zinchenko and Andriy Yarmolenko are among those who have called on the football community to help stop the war, sending messages as part of a wider appeal.
Yarmolenko also took aim at the Russian players for not speaking up, asking “why are you sitting like shit and not saying anything?”.
“I will be honest, if not for my daughter, my family, I would be there [fighting]”, Zinchenko told Gary Lineker in a moving interview, after Karpaty Lviv player and army recruit Vitalii Sapylo was among the first footballers killed in the war.
“I’m so proud. I’m so proud to be Ukrainian. And I always will be, for the rest of my life. And when you look at people, how they fight for their lives… There’s no no words,” Zincchenko said.
“I know the people, the mentality of my people from my country. They prefer to die, and they will die. But they are not going to give in [up].”