'You couldn't sleep a wink' - Shakhtar coach Bianco tells of fearful escape from Ukraine amid concern for former colleagues

Paolo BiancoGetty Images

Former Serie A player and current Shakhtar Donetsk coach Paolo Bianco opened up on his escape from Ukraine, revealing how he left Kyiv by train as bombings were in progress.

Bianco was in Ukraine as a member of Roberto De Zerbi technical staff and, in the wake of Russia's invasion of the country, the former Atalanta and Sassuolo player had to escape the country.

The coach credits the club as well as former Shakhtar star and current director of football Darijo Srna for their assistance as he says they were unable to receive help from the Italian government during the invasion.

What happened?

Biano says that he and the coaching staff had turned to Italy as the invasion began, but the Italian government could do little other than tell the coaches to leave Ukraine in advance.

And so Srna and the club contacted the Ukrainian FA, who helped Bianco and co. escape to Hungary.

Before that, though, they were stranded in a hotel with Bianco explaining the fear that came with being trapped in a country at war.

"During the days we were preparing for what could be the eventual entrance into the city of the Russians," Bianco told GOAL. "OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) representatives and some journalists told us to be ready to show our Italian passport and the Italian flag ... hands on, look down, do not challenge them ... so we waited for such a moment. And obviously you couldn't sleep a wink at night. The days were spent organizing an eventual escape."

He continued: "When we were able to leave the hotel I had a sense of freedom that I had never experienced in my life. Being closed for days in a basement with people you don't know, without knowing anything after a while leads you to no longer have not even fear, anguish.

"We left Kiev by train but the journey lasted nine and a half hours and, in some cases, the train proceeded in the dark because on some lines there were bombings in progress."

Bianco revealed that several members of the Shakhtar staff remain in Ukraine and that there is concern over their safety.

"Some of the guys from the staff and some players are still in Ukraine," he said. "So every morning we contact them hoping for their response and we are very worried about them."

The coach says he is unsure if he will ever be able to return to the club given the events of the last few days, but he does hope to someday return to a peaceful Ukraine to reunite with those that he has become close to during his time there.

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"I don't know if I still see myself in that club because I don't even know if football is going on," he said, "but I certainly see myself with those same people.

"I want to go back to Ukraine to hug everyone again. This experience will unite us forever."

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