Since Russia invaded Ukraine, there have been at least 13,000 deaths, with more than 1,800 innocent civilians left with non-fatal injuries. Property damage is estimated to be more than US$10 billion, with more than 1,700 buildings destroyed, according to Reuters. But perhaps most shockingly is the number of those who have been left homeless: more than 2 million. Russia’s war against Ukraine has exacerbated the refugee crisis in Europe and as countless individuals flee their homes, food shortages are being felt almost instantaneously. And yet even despite all of this, the people of Ukraine remain hopeful, emboldened by the courage of their leader, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and those who remain on the ground, fighting for democracy.
When Ukrainian athlete and event runner-up Oleksii Novikov announced that he intended to rejoin his country’s defence efforts against the Russian military following the recent Arnold Classic, Arnold Schwarzenegger was quick to show his support. “You always see how sports brings everyone together,” he said at the podium. “You’ve seen here not only the strongest men in the world competing, but you also have seen a Ukrainian athlete and a Russian athlete competing in the same competition.”
Prior to the competition, Novikov made a public statement that any winnings he made during the competition will go towards equipping civilians back home with much needed body-armour. He would have taken home US$25,000 in second-place prize money, but after Schwarzenegger praised him for his intentions to return home and fight, the beloved actor also revealed that his winnings would be more-than tripled to $80,000, the same amount he would have received if he had won first-place, essentially getting a donation of $55,000 from Schwarzenegger.
“You’re very special,” said Schwarzenegger. “I just want to tell you that I know that you have to go back to the Ukraine to fight, and to risk your life. And you also, I know, want to take the cash money that you’re making here today and donate it to buy body armour, to protect innocent people in the Ukraine. And so I just want you to know, because of that, the selflessness of you, the courage that you show, I just want you to know that we are going to award you not the regular cash prize as the second place winner, but you will be awarded the same cash prize that the winner gets, so you can donate that money for body armour when you go back.”