BOSTON (AP) — Igor Krytsak, a 33-year-old Ukrainian, is a sporting event organizer who planned to run the Boston Marathon after qualifying in London last year with a personal best 2 hours, 57 minutes, 33 seconds. When Russia invaded his homeland, he sent his wife and two daughters to safety in Spain, but he could not leave the country without a special permit.
Krytsak received permission to run in Boston for humanitarian purposes and arrived in the United States on Saturday. He completed the race on Monday in 3:22:41, wearing a yellow and blue headband and waving a Ukrainian flag that read “I Am Ukrainian And I’m Proud Of It” as he crossed the finish line.
Even as other runners continued on the course through the afternoon, Krytsak departed for New York; on Tuesday, he will catch a plane to Warsaw, where he will meet his family and return to Ukraine by car.
Krytsak discussed his experience with The Associated Press via text chat. (His comments have been edited for clarity, style and space):
When the war broke out, I completely stopped training and preparing for the marathon and devoted all my time to volunteering to support the army and the settlers. My colleagues and I have established a large charitable foundation that deals with humanitarian issues and provides the Ukrainian army with ammunition and other military equipment.
Eventually, I realized that I had to switch and spend time running, because running for me is a kind of meditation. During the next run, I thought about what I was doing to support my people and army, I was constantly squirming and thinking that I could do more. It was then that I came up with the idea to make every effort and get permission to travel abroad to transport humanitarian aid (I am bringing back to Ukraine a lot of help from Ukrainian and American friends) and participate in the Boston Marathon to inform society about events in Ukraine.
In my opinion, it is very important now to explain to the world what Russia is doing to us. Since 2014, Russia has been doing everything to destroy our state, and on Feb. 24 it moved to the next phase and launched a full-scale war that has already killed tens of thousands of civilians. This is the genocide of the Ukrainian people. The Russian army cannot capture Ukraine, so it kills and bombs civilians; rapes and kills our women, children and men; loots; organizes concentration camps and sends our citizens from our territory to the Russian Federation.
The whole civilized world must stop this madness. We ask for maximum support for Ukraine, because this war concerns not only our country. This is a war for freedom and democracy around the world. The Ukrainian army is currently defending the entire civilized world from fascism (just now there are fierce battles in the Donbass). If Putin passes Ukraine, then I have a question for you: Who will be next?
I am a volunteer of several volunteer organizations. Our teams submitted official requests for permission to cross the border for humanitarian purposes. I received it and plan to continue to deal with humanitarian issues and support the Ukrainian army.
My mission here was to establish humanitarian channels of aid to Ukraine, to collect and bring aid to Ukraine, to take part in a marathon and to tell the world the terrible truth that I, my family and my whole Ukrainian people are experiencing.
I didn’t think about the marathon, and even more so I didn’t think about the result. I wanted to draw a parallel between the events that took place in Boston in 2013 and the events that are taking place here in Ukraine.
During the marathon, I thought about those people who are now surrounded, about those who are hiding and fleeing shelling, about those who are now defending our state and about those who will never wake up and start a new day. Participating in a marathon is a great holiday. This is my fifth major from the Marathon Major series. However, today in the distance, I cried several times when I watched happy and carefree families who, together with their relatives, are safe, have fun and actively spend their time here. I, like millions of Ukrainians, DREAM that the war will end as soon as possible, and all those involved in those atrocities and crimes must be punished.
For me, this is an opportunity to tell or remind about the war crimes against humanity that the Russian Federation is currently committing against our people. It is very important for us to always be on the air and to remind that the sacred war for freedom and democracy of the whole civilized world is taking place on the territory of our state. We need help. Please do not forget about us. Support us; stop the war right now. Go to the central squares of your cities and countries, ask the government for more sanctions against Russia and Belarus, give more weapons for us, and our army will protect the whole world.
One more thing: Taking part in the marathon, it was important for me to feel and see with my own eyes whether there is understanding and support among the people of America and other countries and it was very nice to understand that there is support. Thank you to everyone who does not stand aside, and helps us.
I saw and heard many different people standing with the Ukrainian flag and shouting words of support. I am very grateful to these people for not keeping silent, but raising the issue of Ukraine.
As told to Associated Press Writer Collin Binkley and AP Sports Writer Jimmy Golen.