On August 23, 2022, the Rotary Club of Picton was honoured to welcomed our guest speakers, Natalia Egorenkov and Iryna Nesteret to talk about the experience of living and fleeing Ukraine.

Grant Robinson introduced our guest speaker, Natalia Egorenkov. She has been in Canada for 19 years having immigrated from Ukraine. Her dad came from Belarus. When the war broke out February 24, she was conflicted. Her mom and dad at the time were in Pakistan but she had
aunts and uncles still living in the Ukraine. It was a shock for everyone when the war started. No one could quite believe that it was a fact. Her Aunt lives on the northeast side of Ukraine near Russia. When the invasion started, all her aunt wanted was to get her daughter to safety. They decided to go to Germany by going through Romania and Hungary. By the time they reached Hungary, Canada had opened its borders to the Ukraine refugees and with Natalia'spromptings, they fled to Canada. Canada was not an easy choice for them. They had many naysayers who said it was too far away and too cold. They arrived June 1, two groups of three
and experienced one of Ontario‚Äôs hottest summers. They found the County very kind. One person offered them a bungalow on Paul Street that they could use rent free for a year and then another person did the same with a cottage in Cherry Valley. Our club donated a laptop which enabled them to apply for a SIN and OHIP numbers and book their immigrant medical tests. It also enabled them to learn English with on-line courses. 
 
Natalia's cousin, Iryna Nesterets stood up and spoke to the club in Ukrainian. Natalia translated for us. Iryna was happy to meet everyone and was very emotional recounting her story. At the start of the war, her family didn't want to leave their home and country but they were too scared to continue living there. All that they were able to take with them were their papers, and a small suitcase, all other belongings were left behind. At one point, when they were leaving, there was a tank pointing its gun at their car and they feared for their lives. Minutes past, but eventually they were allowed to leave. They are very thankful to be in Canada and they can now sleep without fear. They talk daily to the men that are still in Ukraine, their husbands, brothers and boyfriends.