President Ken DuFour began the meeting with enthusiasm for his Field of Honor Shirt, followed by Ed Romeo announcing that he is 97 this month, and offered the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Cynthia Strasmann announced that there is cake and cookies for other birthdays as well, which include Duncan Forgey, Roger Summers, and James Vale. Roy Shlemon led us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Richard Swinney introduced our special guests from Ukraine, who reported some of their experiences in their language, and Victoria Gillis shown here reported what they said.
Unfortunately, the BCYC microphone was not working properly and it was very difficult to understand the details. Here is Richard Swinney’s summary of what they said. “The Ukrainian family that joined us at our luncheon spoke of their harrowing experience in Mariupol (their home town) that was under constant bombing and gunfire by the Russians. The Russians initial Mariupol targets were the schools and hospitals. They cut off all food and water. Ultimately, the family escaped by car during the night. The two small girls (ages 6 and 11), witnessed the horrors of war-dead men, women and children (many of whom were their friends and neighbors) throughout their city, and the majority of buildings and homes destroyed. The Ukrainian situation is an atrocity beyond words.”
GEORGE LESLEY’S ACCOUNT
Our main speaker was Victoria Gillis of Irvine. Victoria has sponsored approximately 50 families allowing them to legally live in the United States after escaping from war-ravaged Ukraine. Victoria introduced Grandmother Olga, her two adult daughters Dasha and Viktoria and their young daughters (Olga’s grandchildren). Olga, Viktoria and Dasha apparently speak little or no English. Victoria Gillis, as interpreter, asked the family questions about their horrendous, gut-wrenching experiences when Mariupol, where they lived, was bombed by the Russians. The people of Mariupol had been told they would be safe from the bombings.
So, when the air raid sirens went off as 4:30 in the morning last year, the residents were unprepared for what was to come. The family went to the basement of the apartment building where they lived, but as the attack was unexpected, they had no water, food, medicines or any other supplies with them. There was no heat in the basement and the temperature was below zero. After the bombings eventually stopped, residents came out from their hiding places, but many were shot dead, including children. Residents of Mariupol were told they were not allowed to leave the city. Hospitals and apartment houses seemed to be main bombing targets At some point, the family heard of a possible escape route from the city. They couldn’t stay and they couldn’t legally leave, so they tried the escape route they heard of. As they drove along the route, they encountered many burned-out vehicles and dead bodies. Eventually, they found their way to Moldova, a small country on the Western border of Ukraine (between Ukraine and Romania). From Moldova their weaved their way through a variety of countries and entered the USA from Mexico.
As Viktoria and Dasha related these horrors to Victoria Gillis, they were very emotional and sobbing; a number of our members were pretty dewy-eyed as well. Olga said she would go back to Ukraine someday if she could. Viktoria and Dasha said they don’t know if they would go back; and there is not much in Mariupol to go back to. Near the end, Leo Fracalosy said: “I don’t know if Ukraine has a pledge of allegiance, but right now we are all Ukrainians”. There was supposed to be a business meeting after the speaker, but no one felt like having it. Thank you so much to Victoria Gillis and to the Ukrainian family for being here and sharing with us.
May 25 - City of Hope
June 1 - Cap Center
June 8 - Karen Yelsey, Chair of Newport Beach
This week we will be at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club. Lunch will be served at 12:20 pm. You will be emailed an invitation two days before the meeting. Please notify Richard Swinney by this Wed 2 PM if you are planning on attending.