Prince Harry Praises Team Ukraine at the Invictus Games: 'When You Get to Speak to Them...It's Emotional'

"It's emotional to think that they all jumped on the bus," Harry said about the team, which has traveled over 1,500 miles to compete amid the ongoing Russian invasion of their country

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend day two of the Invictus Games 2020
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Photo: Patrick van Katwijk/Getty Images

Prince Harry is praising the "extraordinary" efforts of Team Ukraine at the Invictus Games.

"I think what people need to remember, or perhaps don't even know yet, is the vast majority of the Ukrainian team was serving in some shape or form (until recently)," the Duke of Sussex, 37, told BBC News on Monday from The Hague, Netherlands, where he opened the games alongside wife Meghan Markle, 40, on Saturday.

"They removed their uniforms, put their team strips on, jumped on the coach and came over here, slept for a couple of days, tried to decompress, and then were straight into it," Harry added about Team Ukraine's decision to temporarily step away from the fight against Russia's ongoing invasion of their country to compete in the event.

"Then they've got to go back," Harry added chillingly about what awaits the Ukrainian athletes after the games have concluded on Friday. "So, I think, to have them here is extraordinary."

Invictus 2022 is the fifth edition of the Paralympic-style competitive event, which Harry founded in 2014 for wounded, ill and injured servicemen and women, following his two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the British Army.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, pose for a picture with participants from Ukraine during the athletics section of the fifth edition of the Invictus Games
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle with the Ukrainian team at the Invictus Games. SEM VAN DER WAL/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

Its ethos of friendly rivalry has drawn together more than 500 competitors from across the world to the North Sea coast of The Netherlands, to take part in events such as volleyball and archery, where Harry chatted Sunday with American Navy veteran Gabriel George, who lost his right arm in a motorcycle accident. George now shoots archery by holding the bow with his left arm and pulling back the arrow with his mouth.

Prince Harry
Gabriel George and Prince Harry. Samir Hussein/WireImage

It was also at an Invictus wheelchair tennis match at the 2017 Games in Toronto that Meghan and Harry made their official public debut as a couple — with Meghan subtly hinting that they'd become secretly engaged by wearing a classic white button-down shirt dubbed the "Husband Shirt" from her designer friend Misha Nonoo's collection, according to the book Finding Freedom: Harry and Meghan and the Making of a Modern Royal Family.

In addition to his personal connection to the games, the circumstances surrounding the participation of Team Ukraine in 2022 are uniquely poignant for Harry and all of the other military veterans involved.

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex talks to members of Invictus Team Ukraine at the Athletics Competition during day two of the Invictus Games The Hague 2020
Prince Harry. Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

"When you get to see them and speak to them and see in their eyes the experiences and the things that they've seen just in the last few weeks, it's really hard. It's emotional to think that they all jumped on the bus," Harry told the BBC Monday.

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"That commitment that they've made to leaving their country," he added, "is a really hard thing for them to decide to do."

Zelenskyy Invictus Games
Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks about the Invictus Games. Ministry of Defense Ukraine

"But they came with their president's blessing, and I don't think these games could have been the games that it is without Team Ukraine."

Harry, continued soberly, "Of course, they've lost now four members of their community, and one being their archery instructor, who isn't here. He didn't make it. Killed in action."

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