St Helens to show support for Ukraine at Hull FC match

<p>The Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens. Image: Photo: Lewis Storey/Getty Images</p>

The Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens. Image: Photo: Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Kind-hearted Saints, who earlier this year supported the people of tsunami-hit island of Tonga, are set to play a small part in war-torn Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invaders.

At half-time in tonight’s Betfred Super League fixture against Hull FC, the club will present Ukraine citizens, Olga Bakumanto and Irina Handza, with a signed St Helens shirt, acknowledging the backing which the club, the borough and local sport has for the people of Ukraine in their extraordinarily brave defence of their country and its freedoms.

Olga and Irina are from Kharkiv in North Eastern Ukraine and were subject to 40 days of continuous shelling before evacuation to the UK in early May.

Olga is a professional chemist and Irina an English teacher.

Their UK hosts are David and Caroline Horton from Stokesley, Yorkshire.

David, who is originally from St.Helens, and Caroline have set up StokesleyforUkraine, an organisation conducting invaluable work linking Ukrainian evacuees with UK registered sponsors offering safe homes and sanctuary.

St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus said: “It’s our honour to welcome Olga and Irina to our club. They have been forced to leave their families, friends, careers and lives behind them to escape the horrors being perpetrated on their country by a brutal and barbaric aggressor.

“Ukraine is not merely defending itself, but is defending the free and democratic western world which we are very fortunate to be a part of. Their bravery, strength and steadfastness will go down in history.

“Hopefully some day Olga and Irina can return to their families in a free and rebuilt Ukraine which has been saved from oppression. In the meantime, it is good to know that British people have opened up their homes to them to alleviate their desperate plight.

“It may be just a small token when St Helens and Rugby League displays its support. But it also symbolises our shared values: this country has its own history of standing alone against tyranny and appreciates all the more the resolve, fortitude and bravery of Ukraine and its people in defending their land.”