Duluth FC’s Kostyantyn Domaratskyy Discovers Ukranian Ties with Host Family

The Ukranian mid-fielder was paired with a host family in Duluth who also has ties to his home country.

DULUTH, Minn. – The Duluth FC soccer team is filled with footballers from all over the country and all over the world. And as fate would have it, one Ukrainian member of the club would already have a connection with his host family in Duluth.

Last year, Laura Witrak went to a Duluth FC match and learned about becoming a host family for some of the players.

“I have this big house and I was going to get queen bunkbeds for the kids so I thought I could take four. I just said I’d be honored to host anybody,” said Witrak.

Duluth FC has always had a hard time finding host families who are hesitant about the situation.

“It is minimal amount of work. They’re busy. It’s not like they’re sitting around you all the time, asking you what to do. These guys are like trying to live their dream. And they’re driven and they’re talented and they’re intelligent. And I think that that’s something to be inspired by. And I think it’s good for my kids to see that,” Witrak said.

And it’s good to see the Bluegreens off to a great start to the season. And a big reason why is Ukranian mid-fielder Kostyantyn Domaratskyy, who learned about Duluth FC during his time at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN.

“They told me about Duluth because my ex-teammate also played here. He told me about this experience here. He told me about Coach Sean and about Duluth. They told me you’re going there to swim in the lake and rest on the beach. I came here and I called him back. I said you were talking about the beach and the lake. Are you sure you’re talking about this place because it’s raining and snowing over here,” said Domaratskyy.

Despite the weather concerns, Domaratskyy and the Bluegreens are off to an undefeated start to the season.

“He brings a lot of energy and that’s what we want throughout the team. We kind of structure ourselves to play in a way that’s high energy in terms of pressing and when we have it, trying to get bodies forward and he kind of epitomizes all of that,” head coach Sean Morgan said.

Morgan is in charge of pairing up players with host families and one of the four players he assigned for Witrak was Domaratskyy, not knowing that Witrak’s family has ties to Ukraine as well.

“I hadn’t even passed the information out yet, she reached out and said hey I took a look at your sheet. I wouldn’t mind having this Ukranian guy. And I was like yeah, I’ve already placed him with you, believe it or not, so it was kind of crazy,” Morgan said.

“Laura is a great person. I entered this house like it was my house from the first day and felt myself comfortable in here, especially with the American culture and how people treat other people. It’s not hard here. I would say it’s very easy here,” said Domaratskyy.

“I never grew up knowing a lot about my Ukranian background because my great grandparents had fled the Ukraine. And so it’s kind of been a good learning experience learning more about Ukraine itself,” Witrak said.

And with the war going on, the pair have found themselves talking a lot about what’s going on, especially about Domaratskyy’s family who are currently in Lviv, one of the hardest hit regions in Ukraine.

“It was hard. No where near as hard as what he’s had to watch, or his family or people who are in the Ukraine. It made me feel more connected and wanted to do more and help out more,” Witrak said.

Domaratskyy says he continues to talk about his country to everyone he meets and has been very impressed by the support nationally, as well as right here in Duluth.

“Some people have never heard about my country and they’ve been worried about the people there. This is what the American culture is about. They support everybody and they’re here for everybody in any time you need,” Domaratskyy said.

And only through an international sport like soccer will you find two Ukranians connecting in a city in Northern Minnesota.

“People are coming over here and they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to come to the states without soccer. They’re playing at colleges and then in turn, getting to play in the summer time and meet people from different cultures. It’s really cool to see people from different backgrounds come together throughout the summer. Soccer is kind of renowned for that across the world so it’s really awesome to see it firsthand,” Morgan said.

“I think it speaks to the power of soccer and the power of sport and it how important it is in our communities, in our countries, in our cities and beyond the borders of all this is that we have something like soccer that can bring people together,” said Witrak.

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