Calling 2022 the "happiest and most tragic" year of her life, Elina Svitolina nonetheless will end this year by giving her war-torn homeland a boost thanks to a successful third edition of the Elina Svitolina Foundation's charity gala.
Svitolina was joined at the Dec. 2 event by her husband, French tennis player Gael Monfils; fellow Ukrainian WTA players Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko; and other special guests including Ukrainian soccer legend Andriy Shevchenko and retired NBA champion and All-Star Tony Parker. The event was held at the Monaco Yacht Club with the support of the High Patronage of His Serene Highness the Prince Albert II of Monaco, and raised €240,000 ($251,000) for both Svitolina's namesake foundation and the United24 program launched by Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, for which Svitolina and Shevchenko are ambassadors.
Zelenskyy launched the United24 program in May following Russia's invasion of Ukraine as the foremost means for countries to provide support. To date, more than $237 million has been raised from 110 countries. Svitolina founded her foundation in 2019 with the aim of supporting and financing the careers of young Ukrainian tennis players; since the war began, its goals have shifted to providing crisis relief and support for Ukrainian refugees, including junior tennis players forced to flee the country.
The 28-year-old former World No.3 has had a life-changing year by all accounts: She announced a hiatus from tennis in March after just eight tournaments, saying that the emotional toll of the war and physical toll of some nagging injuries was too much to bear on court. In May, Svitolina and Monfils announced her pregnancy, and in October, they welcomed daughter, Skaï.
Elina Svitolina, Gael Monfils announce birth of first child
While she hopes to return to the Hologic WTA Tour in 2023, Svitolina has kept busy in her time away through various philanthropic initiatives. In addition to the Monaco event, she joined a fundraiser at Roland Garros in May; presented at the Ukrainian Recovery Conference in Lugano, Switzerland, and joined Iga Swiatek's "Iga Swiatek and Friends" charity exhibition in Krakow, Poland in July; and hosted the ES Tennis Camp in Bulgaria for displaced children in September.
"This year has been both the happiest and the most tragic for me," Svitolina wrote on Instagram. "The moment when I found out that Gael and I were going to have a child, the war broke out in my country. Even now, I still can't fully describe what I was feeling at that moment.
"I felt hurt and powerless because I couldn't stop this terrible war. However, I made a decision to take action."
Further funds will be raised via an online charity auction which runs until Dec. 20. Items up for auction include a racquet signed by Svitolina, a jersey signed by Monfils, and a warm-up jacket worn and signed by World No.1 Swiatek. Fans interested in bidding can click here to view all items up for auction.
Swiatek rallies for Radwanska's return in charity exhibition
"My objective [in holding this year's gala was] to reunite all those who support Ukraine, and to find new friends and partners for my Foundation, which focuses on supporting young talents and developing tennis at the same time," Svitolina added.
"My team and I solidly believe in Ukraine’s victory, and we are already thinking of post-war restoration of sport infrastructures. The young talents who escaped their country during the war have to know that they will soon be able to back home."