Maria Sharapova is often depicted as the ultimate symbol of the life of luxury top-flight tennis can produce but the former world no.1 will never forget the fact she could easily have been affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

So last week, after her Wimbledon exit, she made another visit to the region in her role of United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and donated a further $250,000 to the UN Development Program to provide children affected by the Chernobyl disaster with access to sporting activities.

Sharapova’s parents Yuri and Yelana lived in Gomel (now Belarus) which was an area affected by the worst nuclear accident in history on April 26,1986. Consequently the couple decided to move back to Siberia where their daughter was born almost a year later.

“If it was not for what happened at Chernobyl, I probably would be born in Belarus,” said the three times Grand Slam champion. “Therefore it has always been my dream to contribute to the recovery of a region where I have a personal connection.”

Sharapova first visited Chernobyl three years ago and has long been concerned about the after effects of the disaster on people her age and younger. She has been a UN Development Project Goodwill Ambassador since February 2007 and is primarily concerned with the Chernobyl Recovery and Development Program.

“My goal is really to restore that and to send the message that we’re all very aware of the situation, what has happened many years ago, and that people on a daily basis are still affected by it, are getting sick, and are living in those regions,” said Sharapova.



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