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Ten-year-old checkers champion raises money for Ukraine's army by playing the game with passersby

She raised about $700 to buy humanitarian aid and equipment for the Ukrainian army by playing checkers with strangers on the streets of Kyiv.

Ten-year-old checkers champion raises money for Ukraine's army by playing the game with passersby
Cover Image Source: Twitter/Serhiy Prytula

As the Ukrainian military continues to defend the nation against Russian forces, they've found a staunch supporter in 10-year-old Valeria Yezhova. The young girl has been raising money to buy humanitarian aid and equipment for the Ukrainian army by playing checkers with strangers on the streets of Kyiv. For days, Yezhova sat at a small folding table outside the sliding doors of a shopping center with a sign that reads, "We are helping the Ukrainian army." It proved to be a successful venture for the youngster as shoppers were more than happy to drop a few hryvni—the Ukrainian national currency—into her shoebox and give her a run for her money on the checkers board.



 

 

However, what most of them didn't realize is that Yezhova is actually the world champion for her age in checkers, also known as draughts, since winning the title last summer. "Valeria asked me how she could help the Ukrainian army," Yezhova's mother Liubov told CNN. "I asked her what she does best, she replied that she is good at checkers. That's how this idea came about." In fact, Yezhova—who has been training since she was 7—is so "good at checkers" that it only takes her minutes to defeat her street challengers, which have included people of all ages.



 

As they dropped however much they liked into the box of steadily growing bills, some of Yezhova's opponents also asked for a picture with the talented youngster, thanks to her growing national fame. A video of the child presenting her hard-earned money—which was the equivalent of $700, raised over a week outside the shopping center—to celebrity activist Serhiy Prytula spread like wildfire across the internet since being shared online by Prytula earlier this month. In the clip, the activist is seen choking up when Yezhova pulls out the stack of bills from her bag and extends it to him.


@prytula.plus

Цю націю не перемогти!!!💔

♬ оригінальний звук - Притула+

 

After the heartwarming moment went viral on social media, Yezhova's mother's Facebook page saw an influx of messages from people asking where they could find the young phenomenon to challenge her to a game of checkers. "Valeria is already a legend here," said Dmitro Penzev, who rushed from work to play a game—one he would unsurprisingly lose—with Yezhova after his wife spotted her at the shopping center. "You would rather lose to her, she is doing a great job helping the Ukrainian army. She has probably touched the whole of Ukraine."



 

Word of Yezhova's efforts has already reached the front line of Ukraine's defense against Russia's ongoing invasion. Yezhova was surprised when a woman showed her a photo of her husband's unit thanking the checkers champion for what she has been doing for them. "It was a strange feeling," Yezhova said. "I guess I felt gratitude to the military that they protect us and despite the fact that I do much less than them they want to thank me." Speaking of how the war has impacted her life, the youngster said: "Of course I would like to live a normal life, but during the war it is difficult. This is an unpleasant feeling, there are a lot of negative emotions."



 

Yezhova and her family spent the first week of the war in a school basement as Russian forces occupied a neighborhood outside Kyiv where her grandparents live. Although they later fled to the western city of Lviv when the fighting intensified, the family eventually decided to return home to the capital. "These children are a great example of how we can help each other, a good example that Russia can't beat us," said 18-year-old Mykola Sorokin, who also played—and lost—a game against Yezhova. The young girl, who is both the European and world champion for her age group, will return to Turkey next month for the European youth championship where she will face players up to 13 years old.

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