Elina Svitolina is back in her native Ukraine and was in awe of the massive restoration project that is currently taking place in the city of Irpin.
During the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Irpin was a battlefield site against Russian forces. The city of about 65,000 inhabitants was damaged by 70-75%, according to official estimates. But a year on, workers have played their part in restoring some of the city's buildings.
Thanks to United24, the official Ukrainian government-run charity, it has raised £15.8m since May 2022 from more than 100 countries worldwide. Some of these donations have significantly helped to build 18 apartment buildings that were destroyed by the war last year.
It is estimated that over 4,000 Ukrainians will be able to return to their homes. Ukrainian tennis icon Svitolina served as the ambassador for United24 last year and has taken part in many fundraising projects using her own platform and her tennis skills to fight the unceasing conflict.
This week she has been back to her home country and recently celebrated her grandmother's birthday during her visit to Odesa. She has since made her way to Irpin where she met some of her compatriots who were displaced in the midst of the war.
"When I came here in February, my heart was broken. The building was burnt down by fire and heavily damaged by Russian shells. Today, I'm happy to see its facade changing and to hear that some families have already returned to their homes."
From her Instagram stories, Svitolina appears to utilize her off-season touring around the country, seeing the extent of the damage done across multiple cities, but at the same time bonding with families and children who have lived through this torment for over a year.
The 29-year-old returned to the tour in April after giving birth to her baby daughter Skai. She put together one of the most productive spells on the women's tour by a returning mother.
She won a WTA title within two months of her comeback at the Strasbourg Open and made the semifinal at Wimbledon and the quarterfinal at Roland Garros. Svitolina ended her season after a third-round defeat at the US Open.