SPOKANE, Wash. — One of the players playing in an elite division this weekend at Hoopfest is none other than Eastern Washington’s all-time leading scorer in Bogdan Bliznyuk.
He’s still playing basketball professionally, and what happened to him overseas this year, well, it’s quite a story.
"It was a pretty crazy day. Obviously, something I’ll never forget," said Bliznyuk.
Bogdan was born and raised in Ukraine until he was seven and then moved to the Seattle area. So, it makes sense when he woke up on February 24th that his whole world changed in an instant.
"I woke up at like 4 a.m. and my phone was blowing up. I kind of already knew what was going on. I was like, ‘Okay, it’s actually happening,'" said Bliznyuk.
Bogdan was actually back in his native land this year playing basketball professionally. Even crazier, he was with the Ukraine National Team in Spain right as the invasion began, preparing to play a FIBA qualifying game.
Bogdan originally thought there was no way that game would happen. However, the squads decided to tip it off regardless.
"The Spanish fans, the crowd were amazing," said Bliznyuk. "They showed a lot of support, and it was good for the team to be out there and be together. To be one unit and show unity."
Still though, it was understandably a difficult situation for Bliznyuk to process. He had played for his Kyiv-based team just a few days before the invasion began.
"Your homeland, the soil that you were just on four days ago, is getting invaded with weapons and guns and tanks. It’s a crazy kind of feeling," said Bliznyuk.
Bogdan was able to return to the States a few days after.
He says he could’ve continued playing in a different country, but decided that remaining at home was best.
"It’s definitely been tough and pretty draining. You kind of get consumed with it. It’s hard not to everyday read, hear, call people," said Bliznyuk.
Bogdan is now trying to put that pain into action.
"I definitely want to be more vocal and do my part that I can to bring awareness and let people know. Like I said, there’s family there, there’s people there, there’s friends, it’s your homeland, you can’t not care," said Bliznyuk.
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