A refugee from Ukraine who fled the country along with her daughter won the women’s race in Friday’s Jerusalem Marathon.
Valentyna Veretska, 32, finished the 26.2-mile (42.2-kilometer) race with a time of 2:45:54. Israeli Olympic athlete Ageze Guadie won the men’s race at 2:37:17.
Veretska’s husband is still in Ukraine, fighting against the Russian invasion in the country’s military.
Celebrating her victory, Veretska held up the flags of both Israel and Ukraine.
Thousands braved the cold, wet weather to participate in the marathon in the capital, which began at 6:45 a.m.
Veretska, a well-known athlete in Ukraine, fled her country to Poland due to the war, along with her 11-year-old daughter.
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According to Yisrael Hayom, she had been planning to take part in the Jerusalem event before the war broke out. Ahead of the marathon she contacted Israeli organizers and asked them to help her get a permit to come to Israel. She said she hoped her participation would give further focus to the plight of Ukrainians.
As of last week, some 12,600 Ukrainians had fled Ukraine to Israel, 8,000 of whom are not eligible for Israeli citizenship.
“I hope the war in Ukraine ends quickly,” sports site Shvoong cited Veretska as saying after her victory. “What is happening in my country should not be happening.”
According to Ynet, she said she ran for “my family and friends… I knew I needed to do my best. That’s how my voice will be heard. It’s for them, for the people of Ukraine.”
“I’m really happy here. I finished a marathon and have a lot of energy because the people are very sociable and energetic. In truth, today is my first positive day since the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” she told the news site.
Veretska said that immediately after the race, she immediately called her family still in Ukraine.
“They said, ‘yes, Valentyna won.’ The most important thing for me was that my partner was proud of me,” she said.
It was not immediately clear whether Veretska would be returning to Poland following the race.