Vitalii Mykolenko struck an immediate rapport with two fellow Ukrainians when the Everton defender met Olena and Marharyta Savkun, who are settling on Merseyside after fleeing Kyiv following Russia’s invasion of their homeland.
Olena and Marharyta are living with Evertonian couple Diane and Jim Walters, who were moved to help after watching from afar as the illegal Russian incursion inflicted untold damage on the people and land of Ukraine.
Mykolenko, the 22-year-old left-back signed from Dynamo Kyiv in January, attracted countless plaudits for the grace and fortitude he applied to compete on the football field, while adapting to a new culture and environment, with so much uncertainty over events in his own country.
He listened to Olena and Marharyta’s story, sharing experiences over a slice of Sharlotka, a traditional Ukrainian apple cake, baked by Olena for the Everton’s player’s visit.
Mykolenko, in return, presented the mum and daughter with gifts from the Club, including a shirt the player signed for Marharyta’s cousin, Maxim, a lifelong Evertonian who lives and works in the UK.
Jim and Diane were deliberating over how to aid refugees of the Ukraine conflict when they concluded offering a home was the most constructive option.
“We met them [Olena and Marharyta] at Lime Street and it was like meeting people you’d known all your life,” Jim told evertontv. “They are so friendly.
"A lot of people have gone way out of their way to help them, and it is lovely to see. They are settling in well and getting to meet other Ukrainian families and as that happens, I think they’ll settle even more.”
Everton is working with the Disasters Emergency Committee [DEC] to strengthen its support for the charity’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal on matchdays at Goodison Park.
A dedicated text donation hotline has been launched by the Club and DEC. Supporters can donate £10 to the appeal by texting EVERTON to 70150.