Conversations with Yuriy: A Snowboarder in Ukraine

Wet gear hangs above the wood-stove where it can dry. Today’s objective in the mountains was challenging so we take stock. We are safe. We are home. Our family and friends know this too.

This home of ours isn’t fancy, but the lights are on. We have food. We have fuel. We have water. Our elderly dogs and cat jockey for position on a formless sofa while the only thing dropping from the sky is sleet.

Not ordnance. Not explosives.

We flocked to the mountains today by choice, not necessity. We didn’t flee. We didn’t carry our pets, children, parents, neighbors. We didn’t have to choose what or who to save. We didn’t leave our home behind, and in our familiar mountains here in the interior of British Columbia, our flirtation with hazard and risk in avalanche terrain was temporary.

Hazard and risk, threat and fear dominate our friends’ lives right now. They are in Kyiv. They are in Mariupol. They are in the Carpathians. They are in Ukraine.

Bariko San in Kyiv, winter 2021.

Some of the women and children have made it as far as Poland. My friend Yuriy’s wife and toddler are in Romania while he and other men of fighting age remain behind.

We exchange short, clipped messages.

Today I have bad mood- I am sad my wife and daughter not with me- But they in safe place

Yuriy is a snowboarder, a splitboarder and photographer. He was a semifinalist in the Red Bull Illume Image Quest this season, is proud of his work as an artist, a sportsman, a husband and father.

I speaking English, but not good he explains.

“Your English is good, better than my Ukrainian (I have none!)”

We write about the mountains he loves.

I am not in Carpathians, but in safe place

Now safe

But I don’t know how long

My wife with little daughter today gone to Romania

“How can the mountain community in Canada and the U.S support Ukrainian people?”

Sorry, for this question I have not answer, maybe not support… Snowboarder, skier, mtb and other sport- Now we have not categories of people

“Just Ukrainians. I understand. What do the people need?”

Rapidly, Yuriy types his answer, No fly sky zone- Under Ukraine- It is major- we have not many air defense

“I agree, but NATO, others scared of result w Putin.”

Yes, I know

And like that I have nothing. What am I going to tell him? How the snow rode today? How Rossland keeps getting short-changed on pow but the riding is great up valley? We have everything in common but are worlds apart right now.

I offer a lame bit of insight, “Canada was first barring Russia from Canada controlled airspace,” and instantly conclude with, “But not enough.”

But what will happen next… Canada our allies- Good allies

“Many Ukrainians (are) settled in Canada.”

Again, it smacks of lame-sauce. I’m making small talk, chit-chat with a man in a warzone. Thankfully, he steers the conversation.

Many my friends go to territorial defense- Many sportsman

I have friends from Kyiv in Canada

All Ukrainians help our army, but Russians… bombing peaceful houses

I look around our 1930’s farmhouse, the single pane windows, the splintery fir floors, the glaring jankiness that finances and lifestyle prevent me from tackling.

We have everything right now, our safety, security, stability. And a continent away our friends struggle to survive.

I scroll through Yuriy’s photos. A night-time shred session in Kyiv could as easily have been downtown Nelson, Crested Butte, Jackson or Tahoe. The mountain biking and climbing are as easily transposed. The photos of his daughter, and, further back, his pregnant wife jar me.

What would I do in his predicament?

I believe we have a duty not just as mountain folk but as human beings to help.

Please help.

Vladimir Degtiarov, Kyiv.


Choosing vetted charitable and humanitarian organizations is extremely important. Please do your own research and if you have the means, donate to an organization you are comfortable supporting. For instance, the World Food Programme and the UN Refugee Agency are both doing a good job of helping displaced Ukrainians access basic needs, but there are many more ways to get funds to Ukraine through legitimate humanitarian efforts.

Yuriy is also making efforts to raise funds for humanitarian aid via sales of his photographs. On March 10th, and again on the 15th, this is what had to say (via translator, and edited for clarity):

“I would like to try to raise charitable funds, almost all of which will be donated. But it’s not just charity, in return I’m ready to give you my photos after the war. This will be either:

– sending printed photos to your country.

– sending an e-mail with a ready-to-print file.

So 1 photo will cost for example $100 or €100, but you can pay as much as you can. Keep in mind that this is a charity and an opportunity to help Ukraine.

How to get a photo:

Email: beat-com-ua at gmail dot com

Instagram: @nicks_jpg

I will be very grateful for shares and reposts on Instagram, snowboarding, skiing, cycling forums and public.”


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