4:37 PM ET
Former NHL player Dmitri Khristich remains at home in Ukraine, where he vows to fight for his country, which is currently experiencing an invasion from Russian troops.
“The last week for me, it’s been a lot of stressed out, a lot of worrying,” Khristich told ESPN in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I’m staying in a place where, luckily for us, is pretty quiet compared to the rest of the country. But who knows what will happen. For now, I need to be here. It’s a terrible situation, one I never thought would happen, but I need to be here, to be with my people.”
Khristich, who was born in Kyiv, is one of four NHL players from Ukraine to dress for at least 200 games. The right wing played for 13 seasons in the NHL with the Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs. He last played in an NHL game in the 2002-03 season, then played two seasons in Russia before returning to Ukraine where he has lived full-time since.
Khristich, 52, said his wife works in an ambulance, another reason it is important for them to stay in the country. Khristich is not one of the Ukranian citizens to receive a gun from the government, but he is committed to helping his fellow Ukrainians however he can.
“For now, I need to be here,” Dmitri Khristich said about staying in Ukraine. “It’s a terrible situation, one I never thought would happen, but I need to be here, to be with my people.” Clive Mason/Getty Images
“It’s not about just guns here. It’s about people helping people however they can. I have never seen Ukraine so united,” Khristich said. “This situation has united so many different people. But I need people to understand, the people who can think right, to please stop Russia. The Russians came to us with war. They say they are not bombing civilians but it is every day, and all over the place. I see it, it’s horrible.
“We just want them to please leave the country, please go away, then we can negotiate or talk. But please go away so we can live in peace.”
Khristich said where he is currently, there are not Russian troops surrounding the city yet, but he has had to go underground in bomb shelters multiple times. As he has traveled through the country, including driving 60 kilometers and back on Wednesday to drive his stepson to safety, he has encountered multiple civilian-run check points which have been dicey situations.
“We are living every day not knowing what is going to come next,” he said.
Khristich said he has received support from his friends in the hockey community.
“A lot of people have called me, Peter Bondra called me, just concerned, wondering what’s going to happen with Ukraine and the rest of Europe,” Khristich said. “I cannot believe I am in the middle of this.”
Khristich feels frustrated by what he feels is misinformation consumed by most Russians.
“I was growing up in Soviet Union, and we knew what we knew back then. We were told we were the best country and the rest of the world wants to hurt us. We are the best, our president is the best, that’s the mentality I grew up with,” Khristich said. “Then in the 80s, things loosened up and we started to see what was going on outside the country, a lot of people wanted out because they wanted to see and experience what was going on outside of the country.
“Right now I fear we are back to where we were, where there is so much misinformation in Russia, people don’t really know what’s going on. It’s like the three monkeys, don’t see anything, hear anything or speak anything. They need to know, this is war right now. And it’s very terrible.”
Source: ESPN NHL