Ilya Kostushevych, a Shakhtar Donetsk fan, is in excruciating pain after both his mother and father were killed in Russian attacks on the city of Maripol, where he lived with his family. The tragic events have left him orphaned, but the youngster remains as brave as ever. And he received a wonderful surprise this week.
Darijo Srna, a former Shakhtar player who is now the club’s director of football, spent time with Ilya. He arranged for a phone call with his Croatian colleague Luka Modric, one of the best midfielders in the world and the winner of the Ballon d’Or in 2018.
The Real Madrid star, who had just won the Champions League for the fifth time, chatted with the kid, and the video that was posted online is extremely wholesome.
Volodymyr and Maria Bespaliy, a Ukrainian couple who fled Slovyansk, have taken Ilya in. After developing a special bond with him, they have offered to adopt him as their son. “I told him there was a war going on, a cruel war,” Maria explained to rferl.org.
“Unfortunately things like that happen. I said, ‘You are not alone, we have taken you and we will take care of you. We will love you and we’ll be your family if you want. We’ll be your mum and dad. Your mother and father are in heaven. They look down on you and are happy.”
Luka Modric also had a tough upbringing in his native country Croatia
Modric can relate to Ilya’s story. His grandfather, along with six other civilians, was shot by Serb rebels on his doorstep when he was the same age. With their home destroyed, the family was forced to relocate to the Kolovare Hotel in Zadar and become refugees. But the war continued, and a young Modric grew up hearing grenades in the warzone.
“I wrote that at that moment. After it, I don’t have any hate towards anyone. And that’s it. What happened, happened. It is what it is; it is a pity that he is not with us. Things that aren’t nice happen in war. I don’t have hate or, I don’t know, [other feelings] towards anyone. It is part of life I had to go through.”
“These things can make you tougher or can break you. I choose the other way; I choose to become tougher, to create my character.”