A Russian and a Ukrainian enter the boxing ring in the industrial park in Geritsried. The Ukrainian taps his feet and hits the air several times with his thick gloves to warm up. The Russian approaches him and gently pushes him on his shoulder and stomach, as if provoking him. The Ukrainian responds, but the Russian dodges, wearing his red gloves. Then the Russian swings at lightning speed and gently punches the Ukrainian in the face. But with the next blow, the Ukrainian duck was under his arm. Russian gestures are appreciated. “Yes, I am already fighting with Russian boys and I am not angry with them,” says the Ukrainian – “Yes, I am already fighting with Russian boys and I am not angry with them.” 17-year-old Nikita fled his hometown of Odessa on the Black Sea. He wears a gold chain and looks down when he speaks. And my coach is also from Russia.
Valerie Weinert is 61 years old and lives in Russia. However, it is wrong to describe the coach as Russian. He has been a boxing teacher in Geretsried for 24 years. It brings children and youth of many nationalities together, providing them with support, community and self-efficacy. Weinert was a teacher in Russia, but his professional qualifications were not recognized in Germany. Since then, he has been working in a factory during the day, after which he takes care of integrating children. “Eritrea, South Africa, Israel … the whole world is represented here,” Weinert says. “They never argue.” Does boxing training bring peace between Russia and Ukraine? Weinert shakes his head. His parents came from Ukraine. “There will be no peace. So much bloodshed.” He looks at his sneakers, which look petite under the black sweatpants. “No one out there forgets. That’s gone too far, this savagery.”
The 61-year-old applauds. Ten children gather around him. The youngest is seven years old and the oldest is 13 years old. They did circuit drills and then watched the duel between Weinert and his eldest student. Without saying a word, the boxing coach uses his index finger to ask them to position themselves in a semicircle. “The little game is called: Fast Legs,” says Weinert, and explains how it works. In pairs, children tiptoe back and forth in front of each other in small steps and try to stand on the other person’s toes. The air in the room was warm and humid with the smell of carpet and sweat.
Weinert applauds. 20 sit ups. again in pairs. This is followed by a game of skill, again sit-up exercises, and another abdominal exercise. And finally they go to the weights. Most children lift four pounds. A girl with curly blond hair straightens his weight, sticks her tongue out of her open mouth, and hangs on the floor. “On the other hand, go!” Weinert calls out to the children. The girl slowly stands up and looks over her shoulder. Her mother is already standing at the window to pick her up.
Frosia’s mother is barefoot, wears a floral dress and two short braids of pigtails. Frosia tends to her as she talks to Weinert after training. A month and a half ago, Frosia and her brother began training. Unlike other parents, her mother was not suspicious. many moms asked when Weinert invited them to his free training session. Boxing equipment is expensive. But the project set up by Weinert’s association Edelweiß has received a total support of 3,000 euros from the Tölz County Office. He can train children from Ukraine for free for about six months. Frosia and her brother came before there was funding. But since the funding decision was made in May, other children and young people from Ukraine have signed up for the training.
In the group of Weinert’s children, there are now three Russians and two Ukrainians, one Greek, two children from Kazakhstan and one from Germany. They train together on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Is there a difference now in boxing with Rossi? “No,” says Matvey, Frosia’s 10-year-old brother. What does training bring him? Matthew is silent. Defending his sister his mother asks him in Ukrainian. You don’t have to defend them, they can do it themselves. Mother and Weinert laugh.
When the war broke out, Weinert’s experience was not good: a sign with boxing gloves in Russian colors hung on his car’s rear-view mirror. At the gas station, a man asked him to lower the window. He pointed at the necklace and waved angrily. “I didn’t get it,” Weinert says. He was speaking Bavarian. But Weinert preferred to leave followers behind after that.
On the other hand, his students have never experienced anything like this. After training, Ruslan comes to Wienert, raises his hand in salute. Ruslan has two Russian parents. The 14-year-old appears extraordinarily mature for his age and comes to train four times a week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he goes to the gym with the other guys while the kids train, and Winnert trains by himself on Mondays and Wednesdays. “War is miserable, wait a minute,” says Ruslan, but it’s not his fault. “What should I do about it? There is nothing we can do.” He wasn’t asked about in school either, and certainly not in boxing. Sports are a good distraction. School, stress, everything.
Rolsan in a training group with Nikita from Ukraine. Nikita says he feels positive emotions when he does sports. After getting out of the boxing ring, join the others in the gym. “I am happy to train with them,” he continues in English. “Because it’s a sport.” Because it is a sport.