At the eighth meeting of the 2022/23 Rotary year, the Rotary Club of Picton invited cousins Natalya Egorenkova and Iryna Nesterets to speak of their travels and travails from Ukraine to Canada.
Egorenkova came to Canada with her family in 2003 and has been in the County since 2013, where as Nesterests and her daughter only arrived on June 1st this year.
After the war broke out in Ukraine, Egorenkova has been calling her relatives almost everyday to check up on them.
“When Russia attacked Ukraine on Feb 24th, it hit me hard,” expressed Egorenkova. “My mom is Ukrainian and I was born there (Shostka, Ukraine). I have aunts, uncles, cousins, friends in different parts of Ukraine. Thankfully, my immediate family is safe. My mom went to visit my brother in Uzbekistan before Christmas and will remain there until it is safe to return.”
By early March, Nesterets took her daughter and her daughter’s friend and left their home town, not thinking of going to Canada at that point but just seeking a safe place.
“At the start we didn’t want to leave our home,” Nesterets stated. “We didn’t want to leave the country but it was very scary and we had to leave and the journey we took to get here took three months.”
Nesterets said if you haven’t witnessed war first hand, you will never understand the feelings of dread and helplessness.
“When we were leaving Ukraine,” said Nesterets. “We had to face a tank pointing at the car and in that short moment, it just felt like my whole life flashed before my eyes because we didn’t know if they were going to shoot at the car, and we were lucky they didn’t shoot and let us drive through.”
The trip for Nesterets and her daughter involved travelling into Romania by foot and then into Hungary and from Hungary to Austria. Finally, the family came to Canada June 1st after successfully applying for CUAET (Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel) permit March 20th.
“She realized she needed to get her daughter to safety and that was the main reason she left,” Egorenkova said. “Originally the other reason they didn’t bring anything with them because no one knew how long it was going to last so she only took a couple of things and they thought they were going to wait for a week, maybe two weeks in Europe and come back and when they realized that it lasted longer, I convinced her to come to Canada, although it is a big, big step.”
Nesterets and her daughter did not have time to gather any belongings or even gather their thoughts, they just grabbed duffle bags and a couple of personal things with a lot of things being left behind. When they arrived at the airport they each had just a carry on suitcase.
“I am so thankful to everyone and all the Canadians,” expressed Nesterets. “We’re feeling well and good now and the main thing now is we can go to sleep and wake up without fear. I’m really hoping to go back, we’re not letting go. None of the men could leave the country so my husband is still there, my daughter’s boyfriend, all the men are still in Ukraine.”
The Rotary Club of Picton helped Nesterets by supplying them with a laptop and printer to help them learn english, create resumes and any other online paperwork that needed to be done.