Thursday, 14 June 2012

Euro 2012

Wales' link to the European 2012 championship

Ok, so Wales' National Football team didn't quite qualify for this year's European Championships, but there's still a reason for us Cymro to celebrate the sporting events that are taking place in Poland and the Ukraine this summer.

One of the host cities of the games is Donetsk, a large city in the Ukraine. Now, this city was founded back in 1869 by an entrepreneurial Welshman called John Hughes. Hughes was born in Merthyr Tydfil where he learnt his trade as an ironmaster. He later became one of the most acclaimed engineers of the British Admiralty, when they began cladding their wooden ships in iron sheets.

When the Russian Empire wanted a similar design for their warships, Hughes was sent to the southern part of the country,where he built a coal mine and steel plant. He took his wife and eight children, and they all began a new life over a thousand miles away from their native Wales. 

A thriving town soon grew up around the industrial areas and was originally called Hughesovka in tribute to the man who'd founded it. The architecture of the town reflected its British roots, with such iconic buildings as a memorial hospital, tea rooms and fire station.

Sadly, Hughes passed away in 1889 and the business was taken over by his sons. During Soviet rule in the early 20th century, the town's name was changed to Stalin (stalino means "steel" in Russian) but it was renamed in the 1960's during a period of destalinisation to Donetsk, in order to distance itself from the previous leader Joseph Stalin.

Today, it's a thriving city which is home to over 1.5 million people and is one of the most important industrial cities of the Ukraine. All thanks to a Welshman named Hughes, over 150 years ago.

Statue of John Hughes in Donetsk.
Image by Sven Teschke on wikicommons

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