11-year-old checkers champ raises money for Ukraine army

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Valeria Yezhova, 11, plays checkers against a passerby on a street in Kyiv on Thursday.

KYIV — With each double jump and every piece that gets kinged, 11-year-old Valeria Yezhova raises more money for Ukrainian soldiers.

Yezhova, last year’s world checkers champion, is playing the board game on the streets of Kyiv to raise money through donations from opponents and onlookers, and has so far sent the Ukrainian military more than 70,000 hryvnias (about ¥250,000).

On Thursday afternoon, Yezhova set up her table at the entrance of a supermarket. A cardboard sign propped up next to the checkerboard read, “Let’s battle to support the Ukrainian army.”

Passersby stop one after the other to challenge the world champion, only to lose within minutes. The donation box quickly fills up.

Yezhova said she started playing checkers four years ago and began the street matches in July.

It all started when she told her mother that she wanted to do something to help the soldiers fighting to protect their country from the invading Russians. Her mother advised her to help them through something she was particularly good at. Yezhova immediately knew the answer.

Yezhova will face about 50 opponents during her daily two-hour stint. On Wednesday, the military awarded Yezhova a medal as a token of itsgratitude for her support.

Asked about her dreams, Yezhova replied, “An early end to the war, and for checkers to become popular in Ukraine.” With each move of a piece, she tries to get closer to fulfilling both.

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