Tortured, persecuted and left with nothing – except football
The Times, Friday 24 March 2023
James Gheerbrant, Photograph by Marc Aspland
The Bakulin family are steeped in football. Having fled the ravages of war in Ukraine for a new life in England, they now desperately need the help of the game they love, writes James Gheerbrant
Anatoly Bakulin cranes his neck and tilts his face towards the ceiling. “On those long days,” he says in his native language, “you would look at the sky and think, ‘That’s freedom there,’ while knowing you could be shot and lose your life at any time.”
He’s sitting in the flat in Hackney, north London, where he lives with five members of his family, surrounded by soft toys, sofa cushions and children’s birthday balloons, but in his mind he’s back in the cold, damp basement where he was chained, beaten and tortured by the Russian forces who occupied his home town, Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region of Ukraine. His sole focus each day, he says, “was just to live up until the dawn”.