NFL kicks off draft with tribute to Ukraine from Kyiv native

With the invasion of Ukraine now in its third month, the NFL took a stance in support of the war-torn country at one of its highest-profile events.

In the hour leading up to the start of Thursday's NFL draft, the league invited a Kyiv native to speak on the draft's Las Vegas stage. Jenny Arata of Las Vegas act "The Skating Aratas" took the stage wearing a blue dress with blue and yellow flowers in her hair. With the stage likewise adorned in the colors of Ukraine, she gave thanks to those who have supported her native country amid the deadly Russian invasion.

"It has been extremely difficult for us to watch from so far away the destruction of our home and to talk to my friends and family members who remained in Ukraine," Arata said.

"Throughout this devastation, I’m inspired by the strength and unity of our people. We remain humbled by the outpouring of support from the entire world and all over the USA. Thank you for standing with us in solidarity as we continue to fight for our freedom. God bless America. Glory to Ukraine."

Jenny and her husband Vittorio Arata — the other half of The Skating Aratas — have raised money alongside their church to support Ukraine and organized a benefit show in March. Las Vegas Weekly reports that her sister and her sister's children fled Ukraine to Poland at the outset of the war, but that her sister's husband remained behind to join the military defense effort.

She told Las Vegas Weekly in March that the support of fans has provided an emotional lift during the onslaught.

“I have goosebumps and tears in my eyes," she said in response to her fans. "As hard as it is to be onstage and perform … because all I want is to just be, crying, pretty much, and depressed. But as soon as I come out onstage, and I feel that energy and support, it gives me that drive to go — just to go in and finish strong.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 28: Jenny Arata of Ukraine gives the peace sign onstage prior to round one of the 2022 NFL Draft on April 28, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
Jenny Arata joined the NFL draft show to demonstrate support for her native Ukraine. (David Becker/Getty Images)