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war torn Irish underage boxing coach reveals his 'tough cookie' mum is refusing to leave Ukraine

Igor Khmil, who has lived in Dublin for more than 20 years, said his mum Orysya does not want to abandon her people

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Ukrainian Boxing coach Igor Khmil pictured in Smithfield Boxing club. Picture: Gerry Mooney.

Ukrainian Boxing coach Igor Khmil pictured in Smithfield Boxing club. Picture: Gerry Mooney.

Ukrainian Boxing coach Igor Khmil pictured in Smithfield Boxing club. Picture: Gerry Mooney.

A Ukranian boxing coach who founded one of Dublin's most successful clubs has revealed his 67-year-old mother is refusing to leave her native Ukraine to join him in Ireland.

Igor Khmil, who has lived in Dublin for more than 20 years, told the Sunday World his mum Orysya does not want to abandon her people.

A retired school-teacher and a grandmother, she lives in the western Ukraine city of Ivano-Frankivsk about 200km from the Polish border.

The city was one of Russia's targets this week as it was bombed in the early hours of Friday morning, turning Igor's worst nightmare into a reality.

"My mother is a tough cookie. When I said to her to come over to Ireland, she replied: 'Who is going to help here if I leave?'

"There is massive unity among the people in Ukraine," said Igor.

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Igor Khmil. Picture: Gerry Mooney.

Igor Khmil. Picture: Gerry Mooney.

Igor Khmil. Picture: Gerry Mooney.

"Since the war started, I have asked a good few relations and friends if they wanted to come to Ireland, but they all say the same thing 'We're not going anywhere'."

Igor's only sibling, Galia, also lives in Ukraine, while his cousin Lesya and her husband live in the capital Kyiv, where it is estimated half the population have fled since the Russian invasion.

The couple have a 13-year-old daughter and Lesya is seven months pregnant.

She has continued to work as the head of a legal department in an extreme response unit, whose original role was to deal with the fall-out from natural disasters.

Now, together with her colleagues they are trying to protect civilians in a war zone.

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Meanwhile, her husband, chauffeur for a Ukrainian government minister, is based in the parliament building and probably a target for the Russians if, as expected, they escalate their bombardment of the city in the coming days.

"She doesn't see her husband anymore. It is a crazy situation, but she has remained so calm throughout it all it was an aspiration to me to try and do something to help," says Igor.

But for a quirk of fate, 44-year-old Igor would still be living in Ukraine, working as a boxing coach and fighting in the war alongside the country's famous quartet of world boxing champions, the Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali.

The latter is the major of Kyiv - together with Vasiliy Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk.

A former Ukrainian boxing champion, he rubbed shoulders with future World heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in training camps.

"I couldn't say I knew him personally, but our paths crossed. Unfortunately, I wasn't good enough to make the Olympic team in 1996."

After graduating from University and becoming a physical education teacher, he was content with his life in Ivano-Frankivsk.

But there is a long tradition of emigration from the city and a friend pestered him to join him in London for a couple of months.

Securing a visa to either the UK or Ireland was problematic at the time.

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Wladimir Klitschko (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Wladimir Klitschko (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Wladimir Klitschko (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

But whereas the British authorities stamped 'refused' on the passports of unsuccessful visa applicants, the Irish authorities returned the passports untouched.

So, Igor chose the Irish route. Eventually his application for an Irish visa was successful and he arrived in 2001.

Ultimately he opted to stay in Ireland working initially as a PE instructor in Portlaoise Prison.

In 2008 he joined Dublin City Council as a sports officer working in the inner city.

His love of boxing endured. He founded Smithfield Boxing Club in 2008 and has coached there since.

Over the years he has brought Irish underage boxing squads - including future professionals Jason Quigley and Ray Moylette - back to his native country for training camps.

Long before this crisis, the Khmil family had personal experience of the tyranny of the Russian state.

When Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union a sister of his grandmother's was deported to Siberia; she never returned to her native country and raised her family there - and Igor still has cousins in Siberia.

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