The war in Ukraine is, unfortunately, still ongoing and many people (and companies) have come together in an attempt to help Ukraine. People have donated money and time in an attempt to help provide relief to those that truly need it. FEI is no exception to this.
FEI has created a fund (starting from Februrary 2022), a FEI Solidarity Relief Fund for Ukraine which is worth CHF 1 million. This fund has been created for certain useful activities, such as: other countries hosting athletes and horses; the creation of a logistical hub to help horses get ready to be transported to the EU; and, funding/distribution vital horse supplies.
For the FEI and the Ukrainian delegation, headed up by Secretary General Mykhailo Parkhomchuk from the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation (UEF) and accompanied by members from both the UEF and the Charity Foundation, this recent in-person visit provided a platform to discuss the priorities, review ongoing support systems in place, but also establish new programmes and set long term objectives for Ukraine and the FEI Solidarity Relief Fund.
The FEI has also had discussions with the Ukrainina Equestrian Federation about the long-term approach of the relief fund. These discussions have lead to the development of new programs/distrubution of resources, these include: athlete scholarships, distribution of necessary veterinary supplies, and purchasing of eighty temporary horse stalls for hubs in Ukraine.
Now, in theory, this is all excellent. Yet, when it comes to athlete scholarships, something does not quite add up here. FEI has already determined who to give these scholarships to, and they happen to be athletes who already come from families with financial backing, athletes that have already comepted at a high, international level. The two jumping athletes selected for the program are Oleksandr Prodan and Anastasia Bondarieva. The two Ukrainian dressage athletes selected for the program are Danylo Konovalov and Diana Borovyk. The purpose of this scholarship is to support the training and competition preparation for these athletes so that they can represent Ukraine at the FEI Championships in 2022 and 2023.
Prodan is an Olympic level rider, and he has worked with Schibrik Stables for a period of time (stable of Russian show jumper Egor Schibrik and Russian dressage rider located the Netherlands. We are not sure if he is continuing this partnership, but it is for sure that he currently lives abroad. Prodan started riding in Ukraine, but his personal trainer, Jan Hoste, who Prodan trained with, is from Slovakia.
Bondarieva has been competing internationally from an early age. At the age of 12, she competed in Europeans and in her first 135cm. To compete at such levels, you must have proper financing, this is what many people in more remote countries lack (Ukraine included). Her living abroad is further supported by that fact that she attempted Benenden School in the UK (source).
To say that FEI is not doing anything useful would be absurd, yet it is evident that many programs that the FEI has launched (be it in support of Ukraine or something else) has been helping people who already have a consistent financial backing and representation in the big leagues. Not to mention, these athletes do not live in Ukraine. Sure, they do claim to have supported Diana Borovyk, the dressage rider that survived a blockade, but let’s be honest, was it really because the FEI helped her or was it because she had the means to escape?
In the case of a humanitarian crisis, everyone deserves help, but rather than supporting riders who can afford to seek horses and training abroad, FEI should consider assiting those that lack that financial backing (espeically those athletes who cannot afford to leave Ukraine). Russians have not only targetted inconnet civilians, but also stables full of horses, many of which are lesser known (the stable was called KCK Aleksandria Stables). These people didn’t have the chance to evacuate their horses, they had no choice. Be warned that some of the pictures that you can find on the internet are quite gruesome.
For more information about the FEI relief fund, see: https://inside.fei.org/media-updates/new-fei-solidarity-relief-fund%C2%A0initiatives-ukraine-launched-may-2022