The Stranded Sons of Shakhtar Donetsk

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SPLIT, Croatia — It was in their moment of triumph, when they had beaten their opponents and come together to collect their medals, when some of the boys were overcome with sadness, when the tears welled in their eyes.

The teenagers, a mix of 13- and 14-year-olds representing one of the youth squads of the top Ukrainian soccer team Shakhtar Dontesk, had just won a tournament in Split, the Croatian city that has provided them with a refuge from war. Each boy was presented with a medal, and the team received a trophy to mark the victory.

The lucky ones got to celebrate and pose for pictures with their mothers. For most of the others, though, there was no one — just another vivid reminder of how lonely life has become, of how far away they remain from the people they love and the places they know. It is in these moments, the adults around the players have come to realize, when emotions are at their most raw, when the tears sometimes come.

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