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Escondido Sunrise Rotary; Meeting to Serve our Community in Person and via Zoom; and “Olga Ilinska and Her Story About Her Escape From Ukraine” September 29, 2022
As we all try to conduct our professional pursuits in new ways, it’s appropriate to remind ourselves of who we are as a Serving Organization… Our accomplishments, our fellowship and the reminder of our many successes is valuable as we seek new opportunities to serve…
We met again in person at the Chamber of Commerce… Great to enjoy the fellowship again and see all your smiling faces…
As a Club, we honored our nation with a salute to our Flag led by Past President Tony Criss
And, an invocation was offered by Past President, Jack Anderson…
As part of the invocation, Jack reminded us all that we need to be continually praying for the people in Florida. Jack talked about friends in Naples, Florida and Tina shared that Linda Bailey is doing well and surviving the storm
Guests and Visitors:
We had a rare sighting of Burhan Kivrak (Welcome Back Burhan)
James Morrison from the district
Connie Criss (beautiful wife of Tony)
Marina & Doug Landro from the Ukraine, guests of Tony & Connie Criss
Olga Ilinska, our speaker today from Ukraine
Now, some Sunrise Rotary member milestones…
Sadly no birthdays today
Mike & Cathy O’Malley 33 years on October 1st
Ryan & Kendra Koed 9 years on October 5th
Congratulations to you all!!
Rotary Anniversaries:
Barry Baker - 42 incredible years on October 1st
Mark Maus – 7 years on October 6th
Way to go guys!!!
Rotarians Having Fun and Serving…
All kinds of fun and service and fun…
Pictures are worth a thousand words…
John Peterson from Neighborhood Health, he is putting together a program for Behavioral Health in the form of a mobile health clinic. Dana White and Tina Pope are a big part of this
High 5 and Announcements:
We finally got to see a pic of Gerry and LeAnn Fay’s newest grandson Jagger Jay. Grandpa looks very proud!!!
Mike Dunlap is recovering from cataract surgery and he is actually with us today. Wishing a smooth and speedy recovery Mike!!
John Schwab joined us on zoom this morning from Baja. The San Felipe Rotary club is going to start their meetings up again on October 10th
Tina put a picture up showing the warnings of the Fentanyl “candies” that may show up in our kids Halloween bags. Please be careful, this is a real and very sad thing
Liz Phillips talked about how we need to all get qualified to help with any youth events. We need to take a quiz and fill out an application
Kendra Koed and Liz Phillips will be advisors at the Lead Conference which is on 10/15 & 10/16
Mark Your Calendar:
Who Are You?
Jeff Johnson and Mark Maus interviewed Burhan Kivrak. Burhan was born and raised in Turkey and he has been in rotary for 15 years. He owns a watch repair shop on Grand called Timekeepers
Grape Day 5K is almost here!!! The cutoff for the teams will be 10/6, we have collected $102k so far and 577 people are registered, we still have a goal of 1250.
Chris Miller talked about the need for some more volunteers. 2 more are needed on the course and 3 for packet registration pickup on Thursday 10/6 at 4:30pm at the chamber. The volunteers for day of meet at the volunteer booth at 6:30am, see Alan Miller
James Morrison introduced the program and speaker for the day… Olga Ilinska from the Ukraine. Here is her story:
Olga was born and has lived in the Ukraine all of her life and she comes from a family of doctors. She was raised in a close family with good moral values and education was very important. She learned English and studied in Japan. Olga worked for 7 years at the Japanese Embassy. She talked about the Crimea annexation from the Russian Federation that started in 2014 which was the beginning of this terrible war.
Please see article below to get a more in depth story:

This is the quintessential American story: an escape from the pointless devastation of war, a precarious journey to a faraway land, a hopeful sacrifice for the future of a 2-year-old child.

Olga Ilinska was born in Ukraine in the town of Vyshneve on the Western outskirts of Kyiv in the days when the nation was still a part of the Soviet Union. In January 1990, hundreds of thousands of her fellow Ukrainians joined arms from Kyiv to Lviv, forming a human chain for independence. This “Ukrainian Wave” swelled up and crested over the fall of the Soviet Union the following year. Ukraine was free.


Growing up amid these events, Ilinska could peek beyond the Iron Curtain at opportunities that her parents never had. Though most looked West, Ilinska looked East, falling in love with a “unique and fascinating” Japan. After earning her degree from Kyiv State Linguistic University, she moved to Tokyo to immerse herself in the language and culture. A few years later, she returned to conduct research in international public policy at prestigious Osaka University under professor Toshiya Hoshino, former ambassador and permanent deputy representative of Japan to the United Nations.

After working in project management with the Embassy of Japan in Kyiv, Olga joined the United Nations Development Programme, an organization tasked with eliminating poverty and achieving sustainable economic growth and human development. By early 2022, she had settled into the balance of working and being a new mother to her 2-year-old son, Lev.

In the early hours of February 24, missiles and bombs broke the fog and silence of the Kyiv morning. The local Zhulyany airport had been targeted and destroyed. Rumors swirled that the roads heading west to Poland were already blocked by the forces of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As the invasion escalated, Ilinska packed her entire life into a bag and made the decision to escape just before curfew. “We felt we had one chance to get out,” she said. “There was no time to weigh pros and cons, no time to think about my 91-year-old grandfather, my 83-year-old grandmother, my mother stuck in Kyiv. No time for regrets.”

Her ex-husband drove Ilinska and her son south, navigating traffic jams, waiting hours in line for gas, passing Ukrainian defense forces moving in the opposite direction. They arrived at the border at nightfall of the second day alongside thousands of fellow Ukrainians fleeing Kyiv, Mariupol and other major cities under attack.

Ilinska tensed up as she recalled, “It was here at the Mamalyha checkpoint where Ukraine meets Moldova and Romania where our Ukrainian men could not pass due to martial law being imposed. I saw hundreds of women forcibly separated from their husbands, holding their children and their babies, crossing the border and disappearing into the night facing blind uncertainty. This is what I see when I close my eyes at night. This nightmare that we lived through, I cannot forget.”

While waiting five hours in line at the border, Ilinska met another Ukrainian woman driving her daughter through Hungary towards Italy. She asked if she and her son could join them — and the four of them ended up crossing Romania together, buoyed by the kindness and open arms of the shocked Romanian people they met along the way.

Once in Hungary, a childhood classmate and friend reached out and arranged a flight sending them across the world — to a place called San Diego.

Ilinska has found refuge here in our historically welcoming city. She has been offered provisional housing until she is able to secure Temporary Protective Status, find work and financially support herself and her child. Casa Cornelia Law Center has been instrumental in her journey by offering pro bono legal assistance.

I was fortunate to have been introduced to Ilinska through an old friend, Aleksey Dmitrenko, who recently moved with his own family from the Bay Area to Poway. Conversing with Ilinska in both English and Japanese, I learned I played soccer games on the same grounds where she studied in Osaka, just two miles from my apartment in Minoh City. We found our connection.

Nobody knows what the future holds for Ilinska and her son Lev, and even for her home country. Ukraine sits on Europe’s Eastern flank, protecting it from the world beyond. In the 13th century, Kyiv was sacrificed by Europe to the Golden Horde. Eight centuries later, it is a horde of tank columns and military jets that has once again descended upon the country, birthing this current exodus of refugees.

Reflecting on my discussions with Ilinska took me back in time to the turn of the 20th century, when my own grandparents and great-grandparents stepped off a boat and onto American soil for the first time. What fears and hopes rested in their hearts? Could they have imagined the pain and loss they would endure during the 1940s? Or the peaceful and productive lives their American great-grandchildren would be leading in 2022?

It made me wonder — who was there waiting for my great-grandparents, willing to reach out a helping hand to strangers from such a different shore? And should we all be doing more now, proactively taking a step forward to find that connection that will elicit the compassion to help a nearby stranger in need, somebody living on the street, somebody escaping from war.

Ilinska and I spoke candidly, sharing laughter, sharing tears, musing and imagining what if and what could be. I promised to forward her resume to my local Japanese network and to tell others her story. Perhaps San Diego is not the end of her journey, but rather the beginning chapters of an even longer, more peaceful and joy-filled saga. Perhaps one day, her own grandchildren and great-grandchildren will think back to the events of 2022, to her trek halfway around the world, and they will appreciate and celebrate her courage and the future that her vision and determination provided to them.

Pictured above is Olga and her precious son living safely here in San Diego but she desperately misses her family
The Opportunity Drawing…
Big Opportunity this week was $530… Mike Dunlap picked the lucky card… but he’s not so lucky, no joker…
The consolation prize was $15… Mark Maus had the lucky ticket and gets to enjoy a lunch on Rotary…
Next Week’s Meeting:
Will be in person and online at the Chamber of Commerce at 7:30 AM on October 6th…
We will be having our monthly fellowship breakfast….
Thanks for Attending Today’s Meeting….
Support for our Escondido Community …
Our great community and the success of its businesses is all of our responsibilities… Support the businesses that are doing all they can to survive during this challenging time… Take out some chow… Be ready to support them when the economy begins working again…
The ‘Giving Arch’ on Grand Avenue and Centre City Parkway reminds us that Escondido is a caring, giving community…
To all; be safe and be well…. God Bless those men and women that carry the load at our medical facilities, and God Bless our first responders… May our governmental leaders be wise, thoughtful and smart as this pandemic is overtaken by our hard work and collective support…
Online Meetings:
Technical Support for Online Meetings:
Our meetings will begin as a hybrid setting with in-person and on-line opportunities…The meetings will be technically managed by Past President Richard Agnew… Thanks for that Richard… And, Richard is prepared to support all of our attempts at joining the on-line meetings… Look for his email with details and links to log on to the upcoming Zoom meetings…
Watch for emails defining the next meeting. The system works fine, dependent upon your technical support available through your PC or laptop…
SEE YOU SOON……  In Person or ONLINE… Next meeting; October 6th, 7:30 AM at the Chamber of Commerce…
Check President Tina’s email for the reminder…