SEATTLE — Roman Vashchuk stepped out on the ice in front of 17,000 strangers inside Climate Pledge Arena and sang his heart out. Little did anyone know the personal pain he had suffered.
"My son called me, just crying because he misses me so much," said the Ukrainian-born Vashchuk, who performed his national anthem before a Seattle Kraken game last week. "As they were driving away, they heard the bombs go off, they heard the shots."
Vashchuk was in the Seattle-area for a series of church visits and a prayer breakfast. But, as he explains, he was hospitalized with COVID-19. While there, a heart exam revealed a blood clot. He said doctors told him it would be a risk to his health to fly home.
That was just a few days before Russia invaded Ukraine, moving toward his hometown of Kyiv.
"My wife didn't even have time to get her makeup," Vashchuk said. "You're putting your life into one small bag."
His family made it safely to Poland. But Vashchuk said he has seen his neighborhood on TV and that "everything is completely [destroyed]" and "I'm running out of tears looking at everything."
The weight of the world events sat on his shoulders as he stood on the Climate Pledge Arena floor last Wednesday and sang the Ukrainian national anthem. He said he was a little under the weather, but felt it was important to represent his homeland.
"I didn't just feel power, but uplifted," he said. "It wasn't just a song for me. The words are very meaningful."
But he doesn't know if he'll ever get home, or when or where he'll see his family. For the interim, he's found support through the local church community.
"I love my country, I love the city. I would love to return in a heartbeat, but I'm unable to do that. My home is there, my care is there, but I don't know when," he said. "You think that one thing wouldn't happen, but it happened."