Twins Prohor and Matvey Ryazanov came to Slovenia two months ago, in January 2018.
In March, they took part in an international boxing tournament in Eger, Hungary, which was attended by more than 250 competitors from all major boxing countries. There, they ranked higher than Slovenian boxers ever had before.
In categories under 49 and 52 kilograms, respectively, they made it to the finals, and were beaten only by two Kazakh opponents. After all, Kazakhstan is a boxing superpower.
The sixteen-year-old brothers finished primary school in Varna, Bulgaria, where they lived for the last three years.
Now they are in the first year of Celje Centre Grammar School.
They were born in 2001 in Volgograd, a city in the south of Russia. Perhaps you know this city from history textbooks. It was once called Stalingrad, and it was there that one of the most important Second World War battles took place – the Battle of Stalingrad.
Volgograd is a special city because it is very long, spanning over 85 kilometres. It has a population of one million people, which is half of entire Slovenia.
“The city centre is beautiful, there are plenty of parks and playgrounds,” say the brothers.
“After school, boys like to go to the playground and play football for two or three hours.” Football is very popular there. Volgograd is also where the next world championship will take place.
Children from Volgograd are no different from children in other parts of the world. Same as other children, they read less and less, they rarely go to the cinema and prefer watching films at home, they listen to rap, and like to eat the same food as children in other parts of the world.
“Today, fewer and fewer people eat traditional food. Maybe this is because globalisation has affected this area, too. But we do like to eat pelmeni. This is a traditional dish made of meatballs wrapped in dough and cooked. It is then served with potatoes and vegetables,” explain the brothers, who are different from their peers at least in one way. When they were little they loved to read.
They especially liked adventure novels, such as Robinson Crusoe or The Children of Captain Grant.
Why boxing? Why Bulgaria and now Slovenia? The truth is that everything is connected.
In 2013, Volgograd saw three terrorist attacks. Because of this, their father decided to leave Russia. The family moved to Varna, Bulgaria, where the parents opened a Russian shop selling desserts and other traditional products. From there they now came to Slovenia.
They miss Varna, they say. “The climate is different than in Volgograd. Volgograd has very cold winters, temperatures reaching down to –25 degrees Celsius. In Bulgaria it is warmer and there is the sea,” say the brothers.
Why did you leave Varna? What brought you to Celje?
“At a tournament we met a coach who invited us to come and practice in his boxing club.”
Only few people who are not familiar with boxing know this, but Celje is an important place when it comes to boxing. There are as many as five clubs operating in this town.
“We moved here because there are not only better practice opportunities, but also better education and life,” explain the boys.
They took up boxing because the streets of Volgograd were dangerous already when they were five years old. Their father signed them up for classes at the local boxing club so that they could defend themselves if anyone attacked them.
“Today, Father says that it is no longer necessary. We could choose any other sport. But he also says that he never dreamt that we would achieve such results in boxing.”
They do not miss Volgograd itself, but they do miss their grandparents, who stayed there. They talk on Skype almost every day.
They do not miss their friends either.
“You can make friends anywhere in the world. What is more, some people forget about you if don’t keep in touch with them. In Slovenia we made new friends, both at the club and at school,” tell the boys, who learned basic Slovenian in two months and also speak English fluently.
Can you live in Slovenia as a professional boxer? After all, the most well-known Slovenian boxer Dejan Zavec did a lot of practice abroad.
“We don’t know that yet. For now we can practice the way we like,” they say.
They have not met Dejan Zavec yet, but they know who he is.
Perhaps, it is him who will want to get to know them soon.
Thank you: Spasiba
My name is: Minja zavut