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Tampa Bay area coach to stay in Ukraine despite Russian invasion

Viktor Savitsk
Posted at 4:34 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 21:51:11-05

OLDSMAR, Fla. — As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to rage, a Tampa Bay area coach has returned to his home country, and despite the war going on in his country, Viktor Savitsk is staying in Ukraine.

“Basically, I will stay here until the end. I’m not going to leave. I had a chance to go back to the US. But I’m not going to," Savitsk said. “If I need to fight I’ll fight.”

Viktor is a former trapeze performer with the Moscow Circus who eventually settled in Florida. He became a US citizen and ran the Victory Gymnastics Training Center in Oldsmar. He coached dozens of athletes, including three Olympians. But Viktor moved back to Ukraine to care for his 94-year-old mother.

“She’s doing okay. She’s shocked by what’s going on," Viktor said. "She was in World War II. And she can’t believe the Russians are doing that against Ukraine.”

As they've watched events continuing to unfold across Ukraine, and the world; they both fear what will happen next.

“Ukraine won’t give up. Definitely. They’ll fight to the end,” Savitsk said.

Most of the early fighting against the Russian invasion has been limited to eastern areas of Ukraine. For now, that's good news for Viktor and his family as they live in western Ukraine. But Viktor said he doesn't know how long that will last.

“What would you like people in the United States to know?” ABC Action News' Erik Waxler asked Viktor Tuesday.

“You guys have to be behind us because if we surrender then next will be Europe, and then next, the US. That’s a big issue,” Viktor said.

He said he and the people of Ukraine see the support pouring in from around the world, including from the United States. For that he is thankful. But he said it will take a lot more than thoughts and prayers for his nation to prevail.