Who is Valentina Versca, the Jerusalem Marathon winner from Ukraine?

"This marathon is a dream for me. My country is proud of me, and I sent my love to Ukraine and to the whole world," said full-marathon winner Valentina Versca.

 Valentina Versca, 32, escape the war in Ukraine and ran in the Jerusalem Marathon, March 25, 2022.  (photo credit: Sportphotography)
Valentina Versca, 32, escape the war in Ukraine and ran in the Jerusalem Marathon, March 25, 2022.
(photo credit: Sportphotography)

Valentina Versca, 32, won in the full marathon at the Jerusalem Marathon on Friday out of all the female runners competing. The Ukrainian refugee stopped the clock at 2:45:54. 

Versca already holds multiple awards for past competitions. She escaped the war in Ukraine to Poland with her 11-year-old daughter nearly a month ago, just as Russia's invasion of Ukraine began, made it to Israel, and participated in the run. 

"This is a beautiful and special day in my life," she said, according to reports. "This marathon is a dream for me. My country is proud of me, and I sent my love to Ukraine and to the whole world."

About a week ago, Versca received an invite to the Jerusalem Marathon from where she was sheltering in Kharkiv, Poland, she told Haaretz

"That opened my eyes," she told Haaretz, "I understood that I could defend Ukraine outside of Ukraine." 

 Ukrainian flags wave at the 11th Annual Jerusalem Marathon, March 25, 2022.  (credit: MARATHON PHOTO GALLERY 2022) Ukrainian flags wave at the 11th Annual Jerusalem Marathon, March 25, 2022. (credit: MARATHON PHOTO GALLERY 2022)

"I didn't even think about the challenge or my need to breathe. I only thought of how much I need to succeed in this so that my voice could be heard," she told Haaretz.

Versca is from Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine - situated right between Kherson and Odesa, according to Haaretz. Kherson was captured by the Russians on February 27, while Odesa remains in Ukrainian hands, but is a Russian target. 

According to Haaretz, her taughter remained in Poland because her passport expired.