Matvei Ignatov, 9, plays with a plastic cap in the destroyed ice rink – the Russian missile strike crushed the NHL dreams of many children

Matvei Ignatov 9 plays with a plastic cap in the

DRUSHKIVKA A Russian missile directly hit the Drushkivka ice rink in eastern Ukraine at the beginning of January. The dream of many young people was destroyed in the attack.

Matvei Ignatov is one of them. He is only nine years old, but according to the coach he is the best scorer in his age group.

– In one tournament I scored 36 goals, Matvei says modestly.

– My goal is to get to the NHL.

The Druškivka hall was used by both ice hockey players and figure skaters. Children and young people could borrow equipment from the hall. Thanks to that, many got into hobbies.

– Children came here on buses from the entire Donetsk region, says Alexander Varlachenkocoach of the local Altair hockey club.

The coach is hoping for support to repair the ice rink

The city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine was the center of ice hockey until it was occupied by Russia in 2014.

Druškivka is also located in the Donetsk region, but near the city of Kramatorsk on Ukrainian-controlled soil.

Aleksandr has been coaching juniors since the Altair arena was completed in 2013. He is heartbroken, but believes that the hall could be repaired with international support.

– I believe that the hall could be repaired. The structures are in order, including the field itself.

A large part of the roof was lost in the explosion, but as Aleksandr says, the structures seem to be mostly in order.

– I never would have thought that we would get such a wonderful ice rink here in Druškivka, Aleksandr says wistfully.

“I see the destroyed dreams of children and parents”

Before the big Russian attack last February, Matvei visited the hall five times a week. He started his hobby at the age of five.

Matvei’s mother Olga Ignatova says that the whole family’s life revolved around hockey.

– The hall was the lifeblood of Druškivka. When I look at this destruction, I see the shattered dreams of children and parents, he says and continues:

– A large number of families have fled from here. Many have gone to Kyiv, many abroad.

According to Olga, it is possible that there are hockey families in Finland as well, but she does not know for sure.

Olga’s family lives as refugees in Kiev. Matvei has been able to continue his hockey hobby there.

– Matvei dreams every day of coming back here: to his own team, to his own arena, to his own world. Here, where we cannot return now. We hope that our arena will be repaired and that families will be able to come here again to enjoy the ice.

Russia claimed the ice rink as a weapons depot

Donbas in eastern Ukraine has a long hockey tradition. Aleksandr played latke as a child in the Soviet Union.

Aleksandr would like to raise the level of hockey in Ukraine by inviting foreign coaches and players to visit Drushkivka.

The Druškivka hall also played matches of the Ukrainian championship series. People of all ages played in the hall.

There are remnants of humanitarian aid on the floor of the ice rink, including many Red Cross aid boxes.

In early January, right after the attack, Russia claimed that it had destroyed Ukrainian troops and HIMARS rocket launchers in the attack.

No traces of the army’s presence can be found in the hall. The hall door is also far too small for a large HIMARS rocket launcher vehicle to enter.

The coach and mother believe in the future

Matvei’s family is just visiting their hometown. Soon they will return to Kiev because it is dangerous in Drushkivka.

– I would like to come here every day to train, says Matvei.

The coach takes him under his arm and assures him that the hall will be repaired.

– You continue training in Kiev and call me if you are in a bad mood. We will fix this place and everything will continue as before, says the coach.

Outside, the rumble of war can be heard in the distance. It is thirty kilometers from Druškivka to the fierce battles of Bahmut.

– I’m already used to explosions, but I’m still a little afraid, says Matvei before he starts fiddling with the plastic cap lying on the floor. The ice rink is full of water canisters, remnants of humanitarian aid that were stored in the rink.

– Despite everything, we will continue playing sports and soon we will return here. I hope so, says Matvei’s mother Olga.