Monday, 19 November 2007

Tragedy in Donetsk

In 2003 I spent an enjoyable few days in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine with fellow Northern Ireland supporters. It was with a great deal of sadness that I learned of the tragedy which has befallen one of the most friendly, distinctive destinations that I have visited anywhere in the world.

Ukraine’s coal-mines have a notorious reputation, due to the unusual depth of the seams coupled with antiquated equipment. The Donbass region has suffered tragedies before and indeed the Zasyadko mine, in which nearly 80 miners lost their lives on Sunday, has claimed the lives of its workers repeatedly.

Donetsk is a city with mining woven into its very fabric, both literally and metaphorically. The mines are actually present in the city itself, with passages and tunnels running underneath streets and houses. I played football at Metallurg Donetsk’s training ground, which despite its urban location stood next to a large slag heap. The industry is an essential aspect of the identity of the city’s people. The city’s main football team are called Shakhtar, which translates from the Russian as “Miner”.

This tragedy will have an impact on the entire community in Donetsk. It can only be hoped that lessons are finally learned from this terrible accident and that safety regulations become substantially tighter in Ukraine, to prevent such a thing happening again.


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