Darijo Srna

Donestk, a large industrial city in eastern Ukraine, has been one of the major centers of violence and fighting in the conflict between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatist groups that began in April 2014 after the annexation of Crimea by Russian Forces. It also is the home of Shaktar Donestk FC, the second most successful football club in Ukraine.

Darijo Srna, the longstanding and fiercely loyal captain of the club, has taken it upon himself to assist more than just goals for his city, but also the children and orphans affected by the fighting that has consumed much of the area.

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He contributed to the Let’s Help Children project carried out by a Humanitarian Center, buying 20,000 tons of tangerines and covering the cost of their distribution to schools across the city; with each piece of fruit being handed out with an autographed greeting card.

But the Croatian-born athlete didn’t stop there, he continued giving back to the city which has given so much to him over his long career. 450 children aged 5 to 14 from cities such as Donetsk, Makiyivka and Sedovo, received shorts and shirts bearing the number 33 and the name of the Pitmen’s captain. He also sent out about 20,000 brand new stationary sets, and trucks full of sporting equipment to 23 boarding schools in 11 cities and towns all over the region.

His latest display of generosity was buying 100 laptops for children suffering from speech and brain disorders, and cerebral palsy. The laptops would come pre-loaded with necessary programs and special teaching aids to help the children get the most out of their education.

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“Children are our future! And they should have a possibility to learn and develop, especially in the current difficult times,” said Srna.

The Croatian skipper first stepped onto the pitch at Donbass Arena in 2003, and has since made 477 appearances for the club, scoring 47 goals in all competitions. He has represented his country 129 times, scoring 21 goals, and competing in the 2006 and 2014 FIFA World Cup.

(WATCH the children of Ukraine receiving some of their presents) –Photos by Aleksandr Osipov, CC

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