A nine-year-old refugee who fled the war in Ukraine for rural Pembrokeshire  has won a place on the podium in his first UK competition.

When he escaped from Russian occupied territory with his mother and sister in April this year David had to leave behind nearly everything, including his cherished collection of 34 medals and four cups, all won since he began learning karate at the age of three and a half.

But since arriving in Maenclochog, David - nicknamed the Ukrainian karate kid - has continued to practice the martial art he first learnt in his home city of Mariupol which came under siege in the early stages of the conflict.

The National Wales: David and his sister Angelina and mother KaterynaDavid and his sister Angelina and mother Kateryna

“He began learning karate for self-defence,” said mum Kateryna. “He began getting excellent results and started to win one championship after another.”

Determined that David should continue to develop his talent, his coach who is still in occupied Russian territory continues to teach David via video link and entered him into the 1st Kenneth Funakoshi World Karate Championship in Crawley, Surrey which took place earlier this month.

In the run up to the championship David was training twice a day, with his coach having to move around in order to find a signal and a safe space from which to coach him.

The National Wales: David trained twice a day via Zoom in the run up to the competitionDavid trained twice a day via Zoom in the run up to the competition

David’s big sister, Angelina was instrumental in helping set up the Zoom sessions which allowed her brother to continue training.

The determination and resilience of both David and his sensei paid off, David was entered into three competitions of different disciplines. He won a Gold in the first and a Bronze in the second, receiving his medals holding the Ukrainian flag.

“I was so proud for my country and my efforts,” said David. “I am glad I didn’t let my team, my coach or my father down, who are under occupation.”

The National Wales: Ukranian karate kid David won a world gold and a bronze medal in his first UK competitionUkranian karate kid David won a world gold and a bronze medal in his first UK competition

The British team supported and sponsored David.

“They really embraced him and made sure he could do the best he could,” said Kateryna.

As well as this, the remaining children from his club in Ukraine sent him a video message of support.

David has now been invited to compete in Italy this autumn and in Portugal next year.

The journey to Pembrokeshire has been an understandably difficult one for David’s family. His father remains in Ukraine and contact with him is sporadic.

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David his mother and 11-year-old sister Angelina left Mariupol on the bus and went through 19 terrifying Russian checkpoints before arriving at the town of Lviv. They then made it to the Polish border and were finally able to board a flight to Bristol where they were met by their sponsors, Kelvin and Sarah Webber.

The family have a self-contained annex of the Webber’s home where they can live for as long as they need to.

David is enrolled in Wiston Junior School where he says he had a ‘very good’ first day and made a new friend. It is hoped that Angelina will be able to attend Ysgol Bro Gwaun in September.

The National Wales: Ukranian karate kid David won a world gold and a bronze medal in his first UK competitionUkranian karate kid David won a world gold and a bronze medal in his first UK competition

The family is having intensive English lessons and Kateryna is hoping to find work. David is in contact with a local karate club and is hoping to attend twice a week as well as continuing with his Zoom coaching.

“He is disciplined, determined and confident,” said Kateryna.

“We are doing everything we can to help him do something he is so passionate about and so good at,” added Sarah.

“He is so disciplined for his age. When he is training he is incredible.”

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