This is especially true for Pavlo Dziuba, a native of Kyiv, Ukraine, who played basketball in Maryland while his home country and his family still in Ukraine are under constant threat from Russia.

When the attacks began in late February 2022, basketball was the least of Dziuba’s concerns. As his teammates and peers focused on matches and testing, he worried about the safety of his family around the world. After a few weeks, basketball became an outlet for Dziuba, as well as a platform to promote much-needed awareness about the war.

Dziuba spoke on SportsCenter, detailing what it was like watching the locations of some of his fondest childhood memories, like his old basketball gymnasium, go up in flames after the attacks. He also shared valuable information about the relief efforts on his social media. Additionally, he wore the Ukrainian flag around him during some pre-game activities and wrote messages of support for Ukraine on his basketball shoes for all spectators to see.

“I just wanted to let people know this is really important,” Dziuba said. “There is a war going on and Ukraine needs support.”

The first time Dziuba wrapped the flag around himself in a game, he was greeted with thunderous applause from the Maryland faithful, which meant a lot to him.

“It was so nice,” Dziuba said. “I felt a lot of support from the fans. It was really cool.

For Dziuba, it has been important to use his platform to give voice to a subject that many Americans struggle to understand.

“I feel like a lot of Americans, even some coaches don’t even understand. Sometimes there are rockets that come half a mile from my mom and dad. It’s scary and it’s hard to understand for many people.