Elina Svitolina returned to her home country of Ukraine this week for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion last February.
The former world No. 3 and Olympic bronze medalist is an ambassador for United 24, the foundation founded by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to collect financial donations for Ukraine in the wake of the invasion, and met with him during her visit to the capital city of Kyiv.
Svitolina also told the AP that she currently plans to return to tennis in April, following the October birth of her daughter, Skaï, whom she shares with husband and ATP pro Gael Monfils.
While in Kyiv, Svitolina also paid a visit to a maternity hospital in the city to donate a generator to support its operations. In an interview with the Associated Press, Svitolina said that the visit recalled her own memories of the invasion last February, shortly after she discovered she was pregnant.
“It was extremely stressful for me. I was still playing on the tour then, competing at some tournaments. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t live my life normally. It was a horrible time for me,” she said. “Visiting the maternity center really reminded me what I was going through and how strong these women are.”
In addition to her visit to the capital, Svitolina also visited Odesa, her hometown, and had a sweet reunion with her grandmother, Tamara.
Svitolina’s trip to Ukraine marked the first time that she had been separated from Skaï for an extended period since her birth.
“Of course, I want to be with her,” she said, “but I have a bigger mission to do for free Ukrainian people.”
Over the last year, Svitolina has been active in numerous philanthropic and relief efforts to support her war-torn homeland. In December, for example, her namesake foundation raised more that $250,000 in crisis relief at a charity auction in Monaco.
Svitolina’s last played at the 2022 Miami Open, where she lost in the first round to Great Britain’s Heather Watson. She and Monfils later announced her pregnancy in May.
Ukraine’s most prolific player, Svitolina owns 16 career singles titles and has reached two Grand Slam semifinals, at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019.