Editor’s note: The following personal account is an excerpt from a story about Rotary in Ukraine compiled by Rotary Magazin for Germany and Austria. Past and current conflicts have had a significant impact on Rotary in Ukraine, making members there more resolute.
By Tetiana Godok, president-elect of the Rotary E-Club of Ukraine
My history with Rotary began when I was a senior in high school. The newly formed Rotaract Club of Yalta ambitiously set out to establish an Interact club, and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it.
I didn’t know much about Rotary, and the complex club organization befuddled me at first. But over several months, we visited Interact clubs in Kharkiv and Cherkasy, and I came to learn more about Rotary and gradually immersed myself in the ideas and values of this service organization. With strong convictions about the role I might play, I joined the Rotaract Club of Yalta, serving as president and treasurer, and set a goal to get to know Rotaract all over Europe.
Until the annexation of Crimea, I had a very active and rewarding Rotaract career: I often traveled to Rotaract Europe Meetings (REM) across Europe, to Rotary Youth Leadership Awards events in Turkey, to Portugal in western Europe, and all over Ukraine, countless times, for conferences, for seminars, or just to visit Rotaract friends. We gladly and proudly hosted all-Ukrainian and district events in Yalta.
Unfortunately, the annexation forced many Rotaractors and Rotarians to flee the turmoil and conflict on the peninsula, where it had become impossible to conduct our normal service duties. I moved to Lviv in western Ukraine, but the emotional trauma from the migration was such that it took me a long time to settle down and integrate into my new life. The good news was that a Rotary e-club had been established in Ukraine, enabling former Crimean residents and Rotarians from other occupied territories to continue to be part of Rotary. The mutual support was enormously helpful, especially in the early days.
I later moved to the United States, first to New York City, where I studied biology, and then to Philadelphia to work in a research lab. The virtual club has allowed me to remain a Rotarian regardless of where I live, although accommodating members from the different time zones can be tough.
It is good that our club has enriched itself over the years with new members from all over Ukraine. Last year, I was elected club president for 2022-23. I am very grateful for the trust placed in me and look forward to presiding over our first meeting, which I plan to have take place “virtually” against a backdrop image of the Yalta Mountains in Crimea, which is — and always will be — my home.
Read Strength in times of crisis in Ukraine. In response to the deepening humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, The Rotary Foundation has created an official channel for Rotary members to contribute funds to support the relief efforts underway by Rotary districts.