Russia-Ukraine Crisis

Tennis Star Escapes Ukraine, Tries to Bring Goals to Fruition in the North Bay

11-Year-Old Ukrainian Tennis Player and Family Seek Refuge in the Bay Area

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As of Wednesday, more than two million people have fled Ukraine and some have made their way to the Bay Area. 

One of them is a young tennis star who is now trying to bring her goals to fruition in the North Bay, as the San Francisco Chronicle first reported,

“She wants to be the best player in the world, that’s her dream, it is her goal,” said George Shostakovich, Ira Shostakovich’s 18-year-old brother and translator.

A photo of 11-year-old Ira Shostakovich playing tennis. Photo Courtesy: George Shostakovich.

Eleven-year-old Ira has big dreams. She was training for tennis six days a week, three hours a day until her country of Ukraine was invaded by Russia.

“My mom woke me up and told me we were being bombed,” said George explained.

George explained that their family initially fled to western Ukraine after hearing attacks nearby in their home city. But as the attacks continued and spread all around the country, George, Ira, and their mother made the difficult decision to leave the country through Poland.

George said that with Ukraine requiring most men to stay in the country, his father had to stay behind in Ukraine. George was only able to leave because of a medical condition that prevents him from serving in the military. 

Now, they’ve been taken in by family in Novato, 6,000 miles away from their home city of Dnipro. Their Bay Area relatives are helping them get connected to resources (like an orthodontist to remove Ira's braces) and schools for Ira and George to enroll in.

“It's very hard without father here,” said Ira.

Her father was very involved in her tennis training and her eyes welled up with tears speaking about him.

A Call for Help

George, Ira, and their mother are grateful to have the material things they need. The Shostakovich family is asking for help with keeping Ira's tennis dreams alive in California: they want to get her back in a training routine to stay competitive.

Lee Edwards, a San Francisco venture capitalist who is friends with George and Ira's father, called for help on social media for anyone who can assist Ira with continuing her tennis training in the Bay Area 

"I was really unprepared for the number of tennis instructors, coaches, tennis pros, and people in their orbits," Edwards said, explaining that dozens of people have reached out offering help. Tennis club owners, people offering up memberships, tennis professionals, and even universities have contacted Edwards looking to support Ira.

"My heart goes out to everyone who is there in Ukraine and I hope that by sharing stories like this we can all understand that it's a humanitarian crisis, and there's something we're going to have to do for the country and for the refugees who end up here," Edwards said.

The Shostakovich family has been overwhelmed with dozens of offers to help the past few days, which is good because Ira wants to get back to playing soon.

But at this moment, they are worried about their nation, which is deeply in pain. 

“What I would say to the Bay Area is ‘Ukraine now needs help,’” said George. 

He and Ira said they are not sure how long they will be in the U.S., so for the time being, they are looking to get involved in activities and enroll in schools in the Bay Area.

Here are some resources to turn to if you are looking to help people impacted by the crisis in Ukraine.

George and Ira, Ukrainian residents who have fled to the U.S. in Novato
Ira Shostakovich, 11, (left) and her brother George Shostakovich, 18, (right), stand outside their relative's house in Novato, CA. The two fled (along with their mother) from Ukraine where they live and arrived in the Bay Area to stay with family this past weekend. (NBC Bay Area Photo/ Alyssa Goard).
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