Carlos de Pena | He escaped from Ukraine and today is one of the figures on the continent: “I heard the noise of a bomb exploding”

Carlos de Pena30-year-old Uruguayan midfielder, He lived this 2022 one of the worst experiences of his life when he had to be in kyiv for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “At times I had to cry,” she admits in conversation with AS. “I saw situations of boys who were with me, who called their parents to say goodbye or women with small children, which could be my case. The memories are not very nice.”

Today his present is different. He decided to return to South America in search of stability and signed at Internacional de Porto Alegre. The bet turned out well for him: he became a figure and finished second in the Brasileirao. A closing of the year that allows one to look and reflect more calmly on everything that he has had to experience.


Carlos de Pena playing Champions League for Dynamo kyiv. In the background, Lionel Messi.

– He spent almost four years in Ukraine and the end came in 2022 due to the Russian invasion. How were those first nights there after the offensive?

– I return to Ukraine in January 2022 to do the preseason, I spent five days where the situation was in the East, on the border with Russia, as it had been since 2014. We are going to Turkey and Spain for preseason, returning around February 20, to start the championship on the 26th. Luckily I was alone, my family was in Uruguay and they would come at the end of February. On Wednesday, February 23, the president of the club reassured us, especially to foreigners, that the situation in the capital was under control, that nothing was going to happen, that he had even spoken with the president of the country and that we could rest easy. that nothing was going to happen. but honestly I didn’t take it that way.

– How did you take it?

– With a Brazilian colleague we decided to get a ticket to go to Turkey the next day, on Thursday the 24th. That night I remember going home, I was having dinner, I talked to my wife and I went to sleep around 12 at night. And at 4 in the morning I remember waking up to the sound of two planes passing over my house. They felt quite close. And there, when I got up, I heard the sound of a bomb exploding, I don’t know if it was near or far, but I could feel it. It had fallen at the airport, 15 or 20 kilometers from my house. And from there, nervousness won me over.

– What did?

– I immediately got together with my Brazilian teammates, because we lived in the same neighborhood, even some Shakhtar players, who were the ones I stayed with later, lived there, so we all went to a hotel in the center of kyiv together. , where they concentrated. We spent three nights in an underground apartment, a kind of bunker, with uncertainty, with fear, not knowing what was going to happen and trying to transmit peace of mind to our families, when we did not have it. That is the most difficult part, telling my family that everything was going to be fine when I really wasn’t sure, but luckily today I can tell it as an anecdote.

– Do you suffer more for the family than for the bombings?

– Thursday night, which was the first, I remember that it was a relatively quiet night in terms of what it felt like outside. Friday night was more complicated, because bombs were already felt nearby, there was talk that the Russian army was already close to the capital, there were clashes inside kyiv between Ukrainians and Russians. The most difficult moments were when I spoke with my family, in which many people tried to convey calm, support or strength to me and one did not feel it that way. Tell them “rest easy, I’ll be there in a few days” or that in a couple of days we would eat a barbecue together when I wasn’t sure what was going to happen… at times I had to cry or go to a quiet place to understand a little bit about what was happening. And I also saw situations of boys who were with me, who called their parents to say goodbye or women with small children, which could be the case with me. Memories are not very nice.

– How was your departure from Ukraine?

– We were in contact with the embassies, who were giving us possible outings, but we were a group of 50 people and it was not so easy, there were small children and older adults. We had decided that when we went out, we would all go out together. There was a train leaving from a station that was a 15 minute drive away. and left for the border of Poland, Romania and then Moldova. We all got on a wagon and it was a difficult time, because there were a lot of desperate people. We were on that train for 17 hours and we never got off at the border with Poland.

– For what reason?

– There were more people and it would be more difficult to cross. We decided to continue the journey to the border of Moldova, where the Ukrainian Football Federation provided us with a bus that crossed us, a journey of four hours. In Moldova we were already a little calmer, because we were outside Ukrainian territory and perhaps there we began to feel that we were indeed on our way home and we could now transmit more peace of mind to our families. There we went from Moldova to Romania by bus, it took us 12 or 13 hours, we arrived in Bucharest, where we spent the night. The next day we boarded a plane to Paris, then Sao Paulo and, in my case, Montevideo.