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Coach Q&A: Oleksandr "Sasha" Pastukhov

Published on April 27, 2023

This article appears in the Spring 2023 issue of the FCA Donor Publication. The FCA publication is a gift from our FCA staff to all donors giving $50 or more annually. For more information about giving, visit here.

1204239684234868.VBblRt9hBR3KXvr5yIuE_height640A little over one year ago when the war in Ukraine broke out, many teammates serving with FCA Ukraine quickly hopped into action, connecting with coaches and athletes in the country and providing ministry and practical support. One coach was particularly on FCA Wrestling’s Ivan Chernenko’s heart: Sasha Pastukhor. He had attended the Coaches Huddle for five years as well as Marriage Conferences, searching for answers to his growing questions about God. When the war started, Sasha and his family drove to Western Ukraine, but they needed a long-term safe place. Through the FCA Global Team Office and FCA Ukraine, Sasha, his wife, and their three kids pursued an opportunity to relocate to Athens, Greece, where they are still living today. 

How did God first get a hold of your heart?

My grandfather on my dad's side was a very religious person. He passed away when I was five years old, but my grandma would always tell me about his faith. I remember he would pray, knew Psalms by heart and would lead funerals since there was no church in the village. 

Even though I was little, I was always searching for God. It was from my grandfather’s influence. As a young athlete, I would always go to the Orthodox church. I was drawn there. I had no problem going up to the priests, talking to them, and asking questions. I was open to conversation and would buy books at the church store. I was always hungry.  

I knew I was a sinner, but I didn’t understand the way out. I was concerned about it and would ask the priests but they wouldn’t give me a direct opportunity to grow with God at a personal level. I lived in this system for many years.

What changed for you?
One day Ivan (Ivan Chernenko, FCA Germany Wrestling Area Rep) invited me to a coaches meeting. It was a turning point. I got to meet Christians who did everything differently. They studied the Word of God; I was amazed and had no idea it was possible. I didn't know you could “Since Sasha’s been in Greece, I see that his life has changed, his actions and words. Before, Sasha was a person of good things. But now, He is sharing God’s love.” 
- Ivan Chernenko, FCA Germany Wrestling Area Rep
pray with your own words, or pray and smile at the same time!

God gradually started doing His work in my heart. My thinking and understanding started to change, and my wife and I realized that God is love and wants us to open our hearts and serve Him. With all that God taught me, I started applying it to my life and coaching. 

Tell me about your background in wrestling and coaching.
I have competed as a veteran wrestler and I continue to wrestle now. In Ukraine, I coached athletes ages 7-16. I was also a commentator for wrestling, which started as a hobby and grew into a professional job. 

How did you connect with FCA?
When I was young, I was saved from an accident and believed God saved me for a purpose. My grandparents were strong in their faith. As I got older, my interest in faith grew and I sought answers in the orthodox church. But I kept going in circles because in the orthodox church, the priest is between you and God. My life wasn’t changing. I met Ivan and he invited me to the Coaches Huddle. I was shocked because I thought you had to pray and read the Bible in church, but I was meeting God in the Huddle and we weren’t in a church. I realized God is not severe, but God is kind and he wants to be close. 

Sasha and IvanWhat’s life been like since relocating to Greece?
FCA introduced us to a church in Athens that was ready to receive families and provide a place to live. We were nervous because my wife and I were still exploring our relationships with God. But we were shocked by the church’s hospitality, kindness and love. They lined up a translator for us so we could understand the messages. God was speaking through the pastor and talking about what was in my heart. We felt the freedom to attend any church, there’s even one with more Ukrainian speakers, but we felt God tell us to stay at the church that welcomed us. After a few months of being here, God began to change my life. My wife experienced the same. Since we’ve been in Greece, my wife and I have repented and gotten baptized.  

How has your faith impacted your coaching?
Right now I’m not coaching. Before coming to Greece, I was coaching in the day and commentating in the night, and I didn’t have time for my family. That has changed. But I was in Ukraine recently and met with the kids I had coached before. The parents are waiting for me to return to coach the kids, because they know I care. Right now the kids have found other sports to do until I return, like boxing and MMA. When I return, I want to share God’s love with the kids. 

Photos courtesy of FCA Ukraine