Apopka’s tennis community rallies behind Ukrainian family seeking refuge

A mother from Ukraine who was an exchange student in Apopka two decades ago, is back with her former host family but this time, she brought her sons with her to Central Florida to seek safety from the Russia-Ukraine war. The tennis community in Apopka is rallying behind the family. ” is a big part of our life in Ukraine,” mother of two, Yulia Gerbut, said. “We go to practice at least three times a week.” Gerbut and her sons, 11-year-old Nikita and 14-year-old Max, have found some comfort in playing tennis since escaping the war and moving to Apopka for safety. “I would never imagine I would come live like this,” Gerbut said.It’s a bittersweet full-circle moment for Gerbut who was an exchange student at Apopka High School 20 years ago. “My host mom was calling me like a couple weeks before the war and she’s like, ‘Yulia, I really worry about you. Would you come over? Just stay with me for a couple weeks,'” Gerbut said. The Russian invasion forced Gerbut and her two boys to flee Ukraine after hearing sounds of bombs exploding in their neighborhood. “I was sure that my house will be bombed the next second,” Gerbut said. The family has to adjust to a new life in Central Florida, but their love for tennis has been one of their positive outlets after witnessing traumatic events in their homeland.”It was unusual because here people speak a different language,” Nikita said. “Everybody says ‘hi’ everybody so they’re super friendly and I’m glad I’m here.”Since moving to Central Florida last Thursday, the boys enrolled in OCPS and made new friends at their local tennis courts. “Tennis is a universal language and I think playing a game and being on a tennis court – even if only temporarily – it managed to turn their focus into something else,” instructor and founder of Tennis Galaxy Peter Fazekas said. Tennis Galaxy is helping raise money for the family until it’s safe for them to go back to their loved ones.”With our Ukrainian heritage that we have right here in Apopka, we’re here to try to help any way we can,” Mayor Bryan Nelson said. It’s become a home away from home. “One-hundred percent, Apopka was the most comfortable and safe place to stay,” Gerbut said.

A mother from Ukraine who was an exchange student in Apopka two decades ago, is back with her former host family but this time, she brought her sons with her to Central Florida to seek safety from the Russia-Ukraine war.

The tennis community in Apopka is rallying behind the family.

†[Tennis] is a big part of our life in Ukraine,” mother of two, Yulia Gerbut, said. “We go to practice at least three times a week.”

Gerbut and her sons, 11-year-old Nikita and 14-year-old Max, have found some comfort in playing tennis since escaping the war and moving to Apopka for safety.

“I would never imagine I would come live [in Apopka] like this,” Gerbut said.

It’s a bittersweet full-circle moment for Gerbut who was an exchange student at Apopka High School 20 years ago.

“My host mom was calling me like a couple weeks before the war and she’s like, ‘Yulia, I really worry about you. Would you come over? Just stay with me for a couple weeks,'” Gerbut said.

The Russian invasion forced Gerbut and her two boys to flee Ukraine after hearing sounds of bombs exploding in their neighborhood.

“I was sure that my house will be bombed the next second,” Gerbut said.

The family has to adjust to a new life in Central Florida, but their love for tennis has been one of their positive outlets after witnessing traumatic events in their homeland.

“It was unusual because here people speak a different language,” Nikita said. “Everybody says ‘hi’ everybody so they’re super friendly and I’m glad I’m here.”

Since moving to Central Florida last Thursday, the boys enrolled in OCPS and made new friends at their local tennis courts.

“Tennis is a universal language and I think playing a game and being on a tennis court – even if only temporarily – it managed to turn their focus into something else,” instructor and founder of Tennis Galaxy Peter Fazekas said.

Tennis Galaxy is helping raise money for the family until it’s safe for them to go back to their loved ones.

“With our Ukrainian heritage that we have right here in Apopka, we’re here to try to help any way we can,” Mayor Bryan Nelson said.

It’s become a home away from home.

“One-hundred percent, Apopka was the most comfortable and safe place to stay,” Gerbut said.

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