Chess for Peace: Ukrainian refugees play at Monaco tournament

Photo: Jean Michel Rapaire Facebook

I discovered Monaco had a chess club back in 2017. It was during the #Whitecard photo op at the Monaco Yacht Club where a slew of sports celebrities had gathered to show support for the Peace and Sport initiative. Following the group shot, Prince Albert turned to his right to speak with Fiorina Berezovsky (pictured below), Monaco’s youngest ever national chess champion.

At age nine, Fiorina had already been playing the game for three and a half years and was a member of Le Cercle d’Echecs de Monte-Carlo (CEMC) – Monaco’s Chess Federation. She also spoke five languages – Ukrainian, French, English, German and Russian.

Monaco Champions for Peace at 2017 #Whitecard event. Photo; Manuel Vitali/Direction de la Communication
Photo: Jean Michel Rapaire Facebook

Now age 14, Fiorina (above) is part of the Monaco Women’s Team competing at the 44th Chess Olympiad 2022, which takes place in Chennai, India, from July 28th to August 10th August. With 100 countries registered for the event, she is the youngest participant.

The Women’s Team will be captained by Fiorina’s mom, Svetlana, who is also a Monaco Women’s Chess Champion; Fiorina’s father, Igor, holds an international chess title. The couple, who met at a chess tournament in Ukraine, have been extremely active in assisting Ukrainian refugees arriving in Monaco.

When Igor and CEMC president Jean Michel Rapaire decided to organise a “Chess for Peace” tournament for players ages 5 to 17, they never imagined such an overwhelming response. Fifty-six young players – including 14 girls – from the Cercle d’Echecs de Monte-Carlo registered. The event had to be moved from the chess club on boulevard d’Italie to the Novotel to accommodate everyone.

The fast-play tournament on Sunday, June 12th was based on 9 rounds of 10 minutes plus 5 seconds per move.

What makes Sunday’s “Chess for Peace” event exemplary is that ten of the young players are Ukrainian refugees. “As chess is popular in Ukraine, most kids came with a certain level,” explains Igor.

“Thanks to my wife’s great work, Ukrainian kids new to the region have gravitated towards the chess club.”

RESULTS AFTER FOUR ROUNDS
1st-2nd Fiorina and Aaron 4 points
3rd-4th Boris and Sergej with 3.5 points
5th-14th Nam Thao , Stanislav, Nikita, Lukas Dante, Alina , Alexander, Egor, Valériia and Janibek

Photo: Jean Michel Rapaire Facebook
Photo: Nam Thao Facebook

Svetlana Berezovsky

Svetlana Berezovsky met her husband Igor at a chess tournament in Ukraine. The couple moved to the Principality in 2013 to start a business and they have both since ranked as Monaco chess champions in their respective categories.

Svetlana teaches at the local chess club – Le Cercle d’échecs de Monte-Carlo – which has around 100 members and their two sons and two daughters also play the game, with their youngest, 14-year-old Fiorina, once holding the distinction of Monaco’s youngest chess champion five years ago.

While the close-knit family has fully embraced nearly a decade in Monaco, they are deeply attached to their roots. Svetlana was born in Chernihiv, a city in Ukraine with a 1300 year-long history. Today the city is under a heavy bombardment. “I lost two of my relatives who were hiding at their village house not far from Chernihiv. Two more young people from my extended family were severely injured during that terrorist attack. They are in a hospital in Kyiv at the moment. Next week we want to get them to the West,” says Svetlana Berezovsky

The 50-year-old adds that her father-in-law is in Odessa. “It is his city and he will not leave regardless. And, of course, we have many young friends – mostly men – who are in Ukraine, protecting the country.”

For the Berezovskys, the nights following Russia’s invasion on Ukraine were without sleep. “We had the feeling that if we fell asleep, we would wake up to an occupied Ukraine. So we watched the news non-stop, texted and called friends and relatives all over Ukraine.”

Svetlana describes the brave Ukrainians defending their country as “an incredibly free spirit” and emphasises “it is really a fight of good and evil without any semitones. Evil will not succeed. Ukrainians will remain free.”

Concerned about their homeland, shortly after the invasion Svetlana and Igor started to organise support for refugees coming to Monaco. “The solidarity of people in Europe is mind blowing, particularly when you think that Poland has accepted more than 2 million Ukrainians. There is practically no border between Ukraine and Poland today.”

According to UNHCR, as of April 2nd, 4,176,401 refugees had fled Ukraine since February, 24th with 2,429,265 arriving in Poland.

“With other families, we do our little bit to help – like organising temporary apartments and rooms in France, Monaco and Germany for incoming people, mostly women with kids. When people are here, we are trying to support them in any possible way. We see also that while Ukrainians are very thankful, they all want to go back home after Ukraine wins the war.”

For Svetlana, “Everyone can help, be it by supporting Ukraine financially, helping with temporary accommodation, with medical supplies, food and other things.” What is especially important at the moment is accommodating people “even if just for one month.”

She articulates that it is “critically important not to do business with Russia. Every penny Russia gets on taxes, goes directly to war, directly for killing Ukrainian children. And the Kremlin’s appetite is not limited to Ukraine … they are speaking openly about that.”

Anyone wishing to donate items to Ukrainian families currently being housed locally can contact Kate Golubeva on WhatsApp +380 50 392 3244 for more information. Svetlana has provided details below for wire transfers for first aid kits to the largest and trusted Odessa foundation.

EURO TRANSFER

Company details:
CHARITABLE FOUNDATION M CORPORATION

IBAN:
UA543052990000026000034900511

Name of bank: 
JSC CB “PRIVATBANK”

Address:
1D HRUSHEVSKOHO STR., KYIV, 01001, UKRAINE

SWIFT:
PBANUA2X

Company address:
Kanatna, 78 #20. ODESSA, 65012, UKRAINE

Wire subject:
BG First Aid Kits

PAYPAL

oleksandra.podhorna@gmail.com

Subject: BG First Aid Kits