A remarkable journey

On February 24 2022, Marharyta and her family had their lives changed forever. Early morning silence in the city of Brovary, in the suburbs of Kyiv, was shattered as missiles rained down from the sky, jolting her five children from their beds.

“We heard a loud noise, I never heard a noise like this before,” Marharyta says. “I feel scared. I’ll never forget this day because I feel shock and I don’t know what I need to do. My windows were shaking. I said to all the children, please put your clothes in a bag, only important clothes and documents and go.”

The family fled across Ukraine, before a stint in Poland and a five-day car journey to the north of England. Finally, they were able to settle in the small but picturesque village of Dwygyfylchi on the northern most tip of Snowdonia National Park. It was here that her daughter, Anna, met Cricket Wales coach Joe Lambe.

Whilst delivering a typically energetic Chance to Shine session at Ysgol Capelulo, Joe noticed one girl following his every word via a translation tool. Language appeared to be no barrier, as despite that day being her first taste of cricket, Anna seemed to be a natural with bat in hand. When he learnt the extent of her journey, Joe was lost for words.

“I contacted my manager Sue, we talked about maybe giving Anna an opportunity to play cricket at a taster day at the local club,” he says. “I met with all the family, they came down one evening and they told me a little bit about their background…I had to ask them to stop in the end because I got so upset by the story.”

From that moment, Anna embraced cricket, and cricket embraced Anna. A further toe in the water through an ECB Dynamos session led to her joining the junior section at nearby Llandudno Cricket Club. With Joe on hand to support her transition, softball cricket and even competitive fixtures followed, with her parent and siblings able to watch on after they were made honorary members of the club.

“I never knew about cricket because in Ukraine, we don’t have this sport,” smiles Marharyta. “I think cricket united more people and children are feeling more comfortable, more happy and can find more friends. They really enjoy this sport…we really appreciate being part of this cricket community.”

Anna certainly feels the same. “I enjoy playing matches,” she says. “I want to play more cricket because I really like it and I think if someone is going to play cricket, maybe they will be more happy.” Joe perhaps sums it up best. “Cricket, for me, is the greatest sport. It brings everyone together, it creates unity…I think cricket has helped Anna. I truly believe that. I think cricket has developed her in a great way and long may it continue.”

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