Russian-born tennis player anxious for family in Ukraine

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRM) – Russian-born Veronika Miroshnichenko considers herself Ukrainian.

After moving to Ukraine to live with her grandparents and focus more on her athletics at the age of eight, her tennis spotlight brightened, eventually shifting to the United States six years later to train at Canas Tennis Academy in Miami, Florida.

Miroshnichenko eventually landed at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she’s one-year away from graduating with a Master’s Degree in Business Management.

The most recent year as an LMU tennis player was more emotional than any other due to Russian forces invading Ukraine. While Miroshnichenko’s mother and step-father evacuated Ukraine, the rest of her family is still there attempting to stay safe.

“I think I was the most emotional on and off the court, yet somehow I still managed to win most of my matches,” Miroshnichenko said. “After matches, I would just burst into tears because it was such an emotional relief.”

Other than a visit from her step-father, Sergey, in March, Veronika hasn’t seen the rest of her family in three years due to the war and COVID restrictions. The weight of the absence has been taxing, but she channels that anxiety of the unknown into athletic fuel.

Whether it’s leading up to a serve by smacking the tennis balls with her racket against the court multiple times, grunting after serves, or releasing a yell after every swing, the emotions are an on-court effect of everything coming off it.

“If those people manage to go through such a tough time, there’s no reason I can’t manage my tennis match,” Miroshnichenko said. “I try to keep my thoughts on the match as much as possible, but when I need a boost, I think about my family. They’re supporting me and always with me mentally, and that gives me strength. “

The state of Russian politics has seeped into the professional tennis world. The prestigious Wimbledon event in England is not featuring any Russian tennis players this year after they were banned from competition.

“There’s a lot of controversy regarding Wimbledon, but I think there are more important things than tennis right now,” Miroshnichenko said. “I hope more clarity is brought. I consider myself Ukrainian and I can play under the flag. It’s been difficult, but deep in my heart I represent my country.

“Russians crossing the border of another independent country in a horrible way is such a tragedy and so horrible to see. So many people suffer. So many families have been broken apart. It’s very difficult to talk about and observe, but it’s been on and off fighting. I never thought this would happen in my 24 years I’d be alive. They’re bordering countries. Doing this is just inhumane and tragic. ”

While Veronika doesn’t know when exactly she’ll see her family again, she’s staying distracted by playing in tennis tournaments around the country. After competing in South Carolina, she’s now taking part in an ITF tournament at Country Club of Colorado at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, joining competitors in a prize purse of 15,000.

As of Thursday, Veronika advanced to the tournament quarterfinal round in singles play, and the semifinal round in doubles play with Daria Kuczer of Poland and the University of Tennessee.

“I am definitely sending prayers to the entire nation and my family,” Miroshnichenko said. “I know that soon enough, we’re going to see each other again. For now, I’m fighting through it. Obviously under those horrible circumstances it’s tough to observe from afar, but I can shed a light on it, talk about it and send support. “

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