The oldest tennis player in the world has opened up on his horrific experience living in Ukraine during the ongoing conflict.
Leonid Stanislavskyi hopes to live to the age of 100 but is doing his best to survive the shelling from Russian soldiers in his native city of Kharkiv.
Over a million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began, but the 97-year-old is staying in the country, not leaving his house and also turned down his daughter’s invitation to live in Poland, where she currently lives.
“I hope I live to reach 100. I have to survive this frightening situation,” he said.
“The war started on (February) 24th. From the 24th till now I have practically not gone out.
“I've stayed at home… I have supplies, the fridge is full. I'm sitting at home, not going anywhere.
“My daughter Tanya is in Poland, she wants to take me there. But I decided to stay here.
“I have bad hearing so I sleep at night and don't hear anything. Last night there were bombings, in the morning there were air-raid sirens again.”
Stanislavskyi also lived through the Second World War, where he was an engineer who helped build Soviet warplanes to fight the Nazis.
The fact he is enduring another one in his twilight years is bewildering and the Ukrainian pleaded for the conflict to come to an end.
“I never thought that I would have to live through another, more frightening war where people from both sides are dying — mothers are losing their children, wives are losing their sons and their husbands,'' he added.
“What is this? What good is it? In the 21st century there can't be war.
“The war needs to be stopped, an agreement has to be reached.”
Four months ago, Stanislavskyi’s dream came true when he enjoyed a tennis session with none other than the legendary Rafael Nadal.
He also has aspirations of playing with icon Roger Federer and will hope to compete at next month’s seniors World Championships in Florida should the violence cease.
Describing his tennis career, which has spanned over six decades, he said: “Tennis is my life, my destiny.
“I've played tennis at a serious level since I was 90, I've played abroad, I've played in World Championships, I've played in the European Championships.”
“I'm not afraid of anyone… I'm hoping that the war will end and I will be able to play tennis.
“If I could get (to Poland) I would play there. But I decided to stay at home and wait for the end of the war.”
The latest UN estimate put the civilian death toll in Ukraine at 474, but the human rights office warned the true figure would be much higher.
The evacuation of Ukrainians from areas under Russian attack have begun in the eastern city of Sumy, after a safe route was opened earlier today.
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