Pit stop in Walperswil

When Oleksandr Partyshev came to Switzerland from Kiev as a 16-year-old in mid-April 2022, he had to leave his loved ones behind in the war. Now he has found a new family in Switzerland.

Oleksandr Partyshev

Walperswil in rural Bernese Seeland is the new home of talented Ukrainian racing driver Oleksandr Partyshev. It is a world away from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv; a world away from his brother, his parents and his friends. Oleksandr now finds himself in a completely unknown country, in a new environment, in a new family – and also dealing with a new language.

Hagneck, Täuffelen, Epsach, Kappelen and Kallnach are the neighbouring villages. A petrol station, a Volg shop, a church, two pubs, the school, Dauwalder the local hairdresser, an estate agent, a football pitch and Caroline and Gérard Scheidegger. This is Walperswil as seen by Oleksandr Partyshev.

The young Ukrainian welcomes us to his host parents' house. He’s a bit shy to start with, but within a few minutes he relaxes and begins to tell his story in perfect English. "I've been racing go-karts and cars for years – until recently I competed in the Spanish Formula 4 championship – now I'm trying Formula 3." In spring 2022, Oleksandr Partyshev received an offer to compete for the Swiss motorsport team Jenzer. At the same time, war broke out in his home country. "My parents and I decided that I should leave Kyiv and move to Switzerland."

It's not as if this is Oleksandr Partyshev's first time abroad. He has already competed as a racing driver in several countries, including France, Italy, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. And yet all of a sudden he was (almost) left to his own devices in a foreign country: "I was given a sensational welcome by my host family and now feel at home here. Everyone is very friendly and helpful. I couldn't have been luckier," says the young Ukrainian, complimenting his entourage

Fled to Switzerland as a 16-year-old from the Ukraine war: Oleksandr Partyshev

Oleksandr Partyshev has settled in well in the meantime. He attends French and German courses and has already made friends with one or two lads of the same age. He has even been able to visit his family. "I am very lucky that I was recently able to travel to Kyiv for a fortnight. And last year my father visited me in Switzerland. But it hurts to be constantly separated from my family."

His new host family are a big help. "Caroline and Gérard have taken me in like their own child." His gaze wanders to the Bernese Alps; the view from his room over the Bernese countryside is magnificent. Oleksandr Partyshev may be far away from his loved ones, but he wants for nothing here. "It's also great that Gérard, as a sports manager, can give me good advice."

The Scheideggers themselves did not hesitate for a second when they heard about Oleksandr's fate. "Andreas Jenzer from Jenzer Motosport asked me at the end of February if we could take in a Ukrainian racer. Since we don't have any children and have enough space, we agreed straightaway. We had no idea what to expect," says Gérard Scheidegger. For the experienced sports manager, it was certainly an advantage that Oleksandr had a sports background. "I have been coaching and mentoring young athletes for years; that naturally results in synergies. We try to provide a calm environment and cater to his needs." Having Oleksandr in their home has since become a matter of course.

Gérard Scheidegger is positively surprised at how easily and quickly the young Ukrainian was able to integrate: "Oleksandr is an extremely uncomplicated, helpful and also humble person. That fits in perfectly with our own values." The former ice-hockey manager (who had been general manager at Davos, Langnau, Biel and Lausanne) also likes the fact that his protégé has great ambitions. "You can see that he has been shaped by sport. I am delighted that he has great plans and wants to make it to the top." In Oleksandr's case, the top is Formula 1: "I know how difficult that will be, if only from a financial point of view," Oleksandr adds, "but of course it’s my greatest dream." And if it doesn't work out, Oleksandr has a plan B: "I always want to develop further, both academically and professionally. And I definitely want to be able to give something back to my parents one day." With that, he stands up and hops on his bike, off to his next German lesson.