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.
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
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.
Company details: CHARITABLE FOUNDATION M CORPORATION
According to UNHCR, 2,808,792 refugees have fled Ukraine since February, 24, 2022, with 1,720,477 arriving in Poland. The French government anticipates the possible arrival “50,000, perhaps 100,000” refugees from Ukraine in France in the coming weeks.
I have been glued to the TV watching as the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians make their way to safety at the Polish border. When French television showed a report of a German man standing at the border, holding a sign, and saying in English, “I can offer seven people a new life”, I openly wept.
The 60-something-year-old man told the reporter, “I could not sit on my sofa and do nothing. I will be back next week and the week after and the week after that to pick up another seven people.”
I have thought about this story every day. It dampens my despair and reminds me to side with hope, to believe in humanity. Millions of individuals across the planet are unexpectedly taking action and I would rather share their positive stories than read the crippling headlines before I go to bed.
This is what led me to Emilia Romagnoli and her post about accommodating two Ukrainian families in her weekend home in the Alpes-Maritimes department. Emilia, who is Polish, and her husband Rumble live in an apartment in Monaco with their three children but made the decision while they are currently visiting Dubai Expo 2020. From Dubai, Emilia began scrolling through Facebook and was soon in touch with local Ukrainians in Nice who are acting as a hub for arriving refugees.
“To be honest, I did not ask any questions about the people. Per formality, I received photos of their passports but I did not call them. They are traumatised and I did not feel it was my place to ask. In my eyes, they are simply mothers with children. The lady that is at our house drove for 5 days with 2 kids from Ukraine, I doubt she wanted to queue up in Nice to register first. Of course, I understand it is not the way to do it. I see that Western countries keep it structured but I just went Polish about it.”
Emilia was inspired to act when she saw Facebook posts by her Polish friends and family. From Day 1 to Day 2 of the war, her Facebook wall became “one massive announcement board” with everyone sharing “anything and everything” they have: houses, goods and cars but also services like volunteering, nursing, babysitting, offering translations and creating shared Google resource documents.
Emilia’s uncle, aunt and two cousins held a major collection of donations at their local factory near her hometown in Poland and took a van to drive it all themselves 900 km to the border. Her high school friend, Julia, who lives in an apartment in Warsaw, accommodated a woman with two daughters and two grandchildren and uses her network to organise everything they need. Emilia’s university friends, Gosia and Justyna, are also hosting families in their smallish apartments where they live.
“When I saw this wall, I thought, jeez,” admits Emilia. “The people in Poland are the real heroes. They are truly making sacrifices and pushing themselves to live outside their comfort zones. They share their own flats, they share kitchens, they share bathrooms. It was obvious we needed to share whatever we could. Like so many people in the South of France with secondary residences, guest houses and extra rooms, it was a no-brainer to share our weekend house. It felt wrong that it was sitting empty while women with children have nowhere to go. From what we gather so far, 90% of these cases are women with children and the elderly and the most important thing right now is to get these families to safe houses.”
Emilia decided to share her story “to encourage friends” to open up to the idea of accommodating Ukrainian women and children that desperately need help.” She says she understands that people might feel “awkward” and prefer to let authorities deal with the situation.
Inspired to do something, Emilia has guaranteed two families a minimum of 30 days accommodation. At the moment, one family of three – a mom, her 4-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter – are safely in Emilia and Rumble’s home. “We are lucky enough to have a housekeeper who prepared beds, did the first shopping and made a big warm meal. Then a friend from Nice went by to deliver more shopping and toys. The family has access to laundry, cooking, baby sitting, whatever they need. I told them to use anything they need, our kids clothes, toys, my jeans, jumpers, socks and shoes…”
Emilia adds, “I had news that the second mother that was meant to be there with her 8-year-old son are going to the Mairie in Nice to fill out the documents but the room is blocked for them them. That is all I know.”
As soon as Emilia returns to Monaco this week, she will assess the emotional state of women and kids staying at the family house. “Maybe I am living in la-la land but I thought that on the weekend when we are all together in the house, we will organise activities for the kids. We have a big space where we paint a lot with our children and I just ordered from Amazon extra paints and canvas. Our neighbour is a piano teacher and teaches our kids piano and if the kids and moms are up for it, we will do music and games. We have a Ukrainian chess player that teaches our kids and I just texted her if there is something we can do together.”
She is clear: “There was no decision-making process in all of this. We have three kids of our own so we wondered how could we have extra kids in our home, kids who have escaped war that we don’t know – but these thoughts felt so wrong. We are privileged and this tiny bit of discomfort actually changes somebody’s life.”
HOW TO HELP
The French government launched a website last week to connect Ukrainian refugees with French families who wish to offer them accommodation. The site also allows associations to recruit volunteers to help them carry out their missions. https://parrainage.refugies.info/
March 8 is International Women’s Day. To mark the occasion this Tuesday, I am organising at StarsnBars a collection to support Ukraine.
Two of my colleagues are Ukrainian: one is currently being bombed; the other is here but her father is not. He has stayed in Ukraine and is working with the local government and preparing to defend his pays natal.
Like many of you I feel helpless. I see images on TV of brave-faced Ukrainian women who are trying to flee with their young children, with their lives stuffed in one suitcase. I see young women, middle-aged women and not so middle-aged women who are staying and arming themselves with rifles. I see women and their families in Russia defying imprisonment as they unprecedentedly protest to end the war on their neighbouring friends. This is all, by definition, courage.
Courage does not care how much money you have or what nationality you are. Courage is not easy, it takes effort to find your voice. But one voice can turn into two which turns into 200 which turns into 200,000 which turns into 2 million.
I am asking to hear your voice on International Women’s Day. We have lived in isolation for two years and now is our time to come together and to shine a collective light on Monaco, a community that shares a global conscience united through benevolence, compassion and love.
Here is where you come in.
9am to 10am Monaco Stands Together I invite everyone who works, lives and plays in Monaco to come together outside of Starsnbars and #standwithukraine. It is International Women’s Day and I would love to see as many female faces as possible – moms, entrepreneurs, those working with nonprofits or in commerce, clubs and associations members, artists, athletes or retired – but this is a 100% inclusive event. Everyone is welcome to come and chat, network, order coffee at StarsnBars, hug … to connect.
Should you feel inspired, wear a dash of yellow or cyan blue for the Ukraine flag, orange for Kate Powers or purple for International Women’s Day.
9am to 7pm Red Cross Monaco The Red Cross Monegasque (RCM) has kindly agreed to give a collection box for cash or cheque donations to Ukraine. Cheques need to be made out to: Croix-Rouge Monégasque – Ukraine.
All cash and cheque donations to RCM on Tuesday will be made in the name of the Kate Powers Foundation.
Please note the RCM is not accepting items of any kind. You can also send a cheque direct to Croix-Rouge Monégasque at 27 Bd de Suisse, 98000 Monaco.
9am to 7pm Drive for Ukraine There will be a collection of items for Ukraine outside of StarsnBars. I have organised with my Ukrainian colleague a driver in the community and point of contact in Ukraine to ensure these items are driven to the border where they will then be picked up and taken to various cities within the country. Many donated items from around the world are making it to the border but not able to be distributed in Ukraine itself. Some are making it across the border only to end up in the hands of those selling on the black market.
This is a part of a list sent today to my colleague from a volunteer in Ukraine. The focus here is on women and babies. These items are probably not in your closet but a little effort on your part will go a long way.
– antiseptics – anti-inflammatories – antispasmodics – hydroalcoholic gel – needle and thread – hygienic wipes – baby wipes – Pampers – baby food, baby milk – baby clothes (socks), baby toys – anything for newborns – pet food – feminine hygiene products – toiletries, especially toothbrush, toothpaste and soap, baby shampoo
Please share this information to encourage others to support this humanitarian cause on March 8.
Thanks to Annette Anderson and Didier Rubiolo at Starsnbars, Françoise Cellario at the Croix-Rouge Monegasque, Yana Kryshtofovych and Merrily Lustig Tornatore, who have all helped pull this together last minute.
Le 8 mars est la Journée Internationale de la Femme. Pour marquer l’évènement ce mardi, j’organise au StarsnBars une collecte pour soutenir l’Ukraine.
Deux de mes collègues sont ukrainiennes : l’une vit actuellement sur les bombes ; l’autre est ici mais pas son père. Il est resté en Ukraine et travaille avec le gouvernement local et se prépare à défendre son pays natal.
Comme beaucoup d’entre vous, je me sens impuissante. Je vois à la télévision des images de femmes ukrainiennes au visage courageux qui tentent de fuir avec leurs jeunes enfants, toute leur vie enfouie dans une seule valise. Je vois des jeunes femmes, des femmes en pleine force de l’âge et des femmes même plus âgées qui restent et s’arment de fusils. Je vois des femmes et leurs familles en Russie défier l’emprisonnement alors qu’elles protestent sans précédent pour mettre fin à la guerre contre leurs amis et voisins. C’est tout simplement du courage.
Le courage n’est pas une question de combien d’argent vous avez ou de quelle nationalité vous êtes. Le courage n’est pas facile, il faut des efforts pour oser parler. Mais une voix peut se transformer en deux qui se transforment en 200 qui se transforment en 200 000 qui se transforment en 2 millions.
Je demande à entendre votre voix à l’occasion de la Journée internationale de la Femme. Nous avons vécu isolés pendant deux annéss et il est maintenant temps de nous rassembler et de faire rayonner ensemble Monaco, une communauté qui partage une conscience globale unie par la bienveillance, la compassion et l’amour.
Voici comment vous pouvez aider.
9h à 10h Monaco Stands Together J’invite tous ceux qui travaillent, vivent et jouent à Monaco à se rassembler en dehors de Starsnbars et de #standwithukraine. C’est la Journée Internationale de la Femme et j’aimerais voir autant de visages féminins que possible – mamans, entrepreneures, celles qui travaillent avec des organisations à but non lucratif ou dans le commerce, membres de clubs et d’associations, artistes, athlètes ou retraitées – mais c’est un événement 100% inclusif. Tout le monde est le bienvenu pour venir discuter, “network”, commander un café au StarsnBars, faire un câlin ou autre. Il s’agit d’être solidaires
Si vous vous sentez inspiré, portez une touche de jaune ou de bleu cyan pour le drapeau ukrainien, orange pour Kate Powers ou violet pour la Journée Internationale de la Femme.
9h à 19h Croix-Rouge Monégasque La Croix-Rouge Monégasque (CRM) a aimablement accepté de mettre à disposition une boîte de collecte pour les dons en espèces ou en chèques à destination de l’Ukraine. Les chèques sont à libeller à l’ordre de : Croix-Rouge Monégasque – Ukraine.
Tous les dons en espèces et en chèques à CRM mardi seront faits au nom de la Fondation Kate Powers.
La CRM n’accepte aucun article de quelque nature que ce soit. Vous pouvez également adresser un chèque directement à la Croix-Rouge Monégasque, 27 Bd de Suisse, 98000 Monaco.
9h à 19h Drive pour Ukraine Il y aura une collecte d’articles pour l’Ukraine devant StarsnBars. J’ai organisé avec mon collègue ukrainien un chauffeur de la communauté, et aussi un point de contact en Ukraine pour s’assurer que ces articles soient conduits à la frontière où ils seront ensuite récupérés et transportés dans différentes villes du pays. De nombreux articles donnés du monde entier arrivent à la frontière mais ne peuvent pas être distribués en Ukraine même. Certains traversent la frontière pour se retrouver entre les mains de ceux qui vendent au marché noir.
Ceci fait partie d’une liste envoyée vendredi à mon collègue par un volontaire en Ukraine. Le focus mis ici est sur les femmes et les bébés. Ces articles ne sont probablement pas dans votre garde-robe, mais un petit effort de votre part fera beaucoup de chemin.
– antiseptiques – anti-inflammatoires – antispasmodiques – gel hydroalcoolique – aiguille et fil – des lingettes hygiéniques – lingettes pour bébés – Pampers – nourriture pour bébé, lait pour bébé – vêtements bébé (chaussettes), jouets bébé – tout pour les nouveau-nés – la nourriture pour animaux – produits d’hygiène féminine – articles de toilette, notamment brosse à dents, dentifrice et savon, shampoing pour bébé
Veuillez partager cette information pour encourager les autres à soutenir cette cause humanitaire le 8 mars.
Merci à Annette Anderson et Didier Rubiolo au Starsnbars, Françoise Cellario à la Croix-Rouge Monégasque, Yana Kryshtofovych et Merrily Lustig Tornatore, qui ont tous contribué à l’organisation de la dernière minute.
Soyons solidaires Monaco. Rendez-vous tous mardi 8 mars 2022 à 09h au StarsnBar, quai Antoine 1er.