Tortured, persecuted and left with nothing – except football

Tortured, persecuted and left with nothing – except football
March 24, 2023
Article by: James Gheerbrant, Photograph by Marc Aspland
Published in: The Times


The Bakulin family are steeped in football. Having fled the ravages of war in Ukraine for a new life in England, they now desperately need the help of the game they love, writes James Gheerbrant

Anatoly Bakulin cranes his neck and tilts his face towards the ceiling. “On those long days,” he says in his native language, “you would look at the sky and think, ‘That’s freedom there,’ while knowing you could be shot and lose your life at any time.”

He’s sitting in the flat in Hackney, north London, where he lives with five members of his family, surrounded by soft toys, sofa cushions and children’s birthday balloons, but in his mind he’s back in the cold, damp basement where he was chained, beaten and tortured by the Russian forces who occupied his home town, Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region of Ukraine. His sole focus each day, he says, “was just to live up until the dawn”.


  • Read the full article here. 
  • Read James’ Twitter post on meeting Vlad and his family here.