FALMOUTH – About a month ago, Maryna Bilonozhko was hiding in a bomb shelter in the city of Kyiv.
Now, thanks to the kindness of a Cape tennis coach, Bilonozhko is preparing to take on her son Timur Alalin, 16, an accomplished golfer, to the West Coast where he will join the Junior Golf Association of Northern California.
Clearing their path to a new life in the United States was Kevin Pease, who runs a tennis school in Falmouth.
When Bilonozhko was taking shelter in Kyiv, she received an email from Pease. He had reached out to multiple tennis professionals in Ukraine, including Bilonozhko, to help in some way.
“I’m a tennis professional, and I view it as sort of a brotherhood across the world, and anyone that is a global tennis coach or an ITF coach, you know, we’re kindred spirits. I just reached out, it started out that way, ”Pease said.
Athletes as kindred spirits
Pease urged Bilonozhko to make her way to the United States since she has an international visa. Bilonozhko hadn’t thought of leaving Kyiv, where her entire life is centered.
While she was taking shelter, her son was in Turkey, where he was competing in a golf tournament. Alain is a top golfer in Ukraine. His mother is a former professional tennis player and current tennis coach.
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Pease’s encouragement spurred Bilonozhko to begin a long and challenging journey, one that would take her and her son away from a war-torn country and Cape Cod, where they would hopefully have a fresh start.
From Turkey, Alain traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, where he stayed with a friend. Bilonozhko traveled by train to meet her son. Once they met, they traveled together to Bucharest. The trains were overcrowded, and destinations were constantly changing, Alain told The Cape Cod Times.
On Facebook, Bilonozhko found an American who was giving his airline miles away in need of Ukrainians.
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The pair flew from Bucharest to Frankfurt, Germany, then on to Dulles International Airport outside DC and finally to Logan International in Boston, where Pease picked them up and took them to the Cape.
Leap of Faith to Cape Cod
Pease did not know his guests, but all of them were willing to take a leap of faith: Pease helping strangers out of a tough situation, and Alain and Bilonozhko placing their trust in a different country from a stranger.
“I know if I was in that situation, I would hope that someone would reach out and say ‘hey, how are you doing? Do you need any help? ‘ ”Said Pease.
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Alain was warmly received by the Cape Codders.
“It’s all good. Very good people, very nice, always smiling. All are happy, all say ‘hi’ to you. It’s like, I’ve never seen it before,” he said.
Since they’ve arrived, Alalin and his mother have groceries and clothes for gift cards. Some locals have even taken the gear with Alain golfing and gifted him.
“All your gifts are real help and support, as well as a manifestation of care for us,” Bilonozhko wrote in a text message to The Times.
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Where to golf?
Hoping to find a place to play golf, Alalin wrote to the top 50 golf clubs in the states.
David Leadbetter, a top golf instructor, got in touch with Alain in Mike Moreland, president of the Junior Golf Association of Northern California. Moreland is going to give Alain and his mother a place to stay and have Alain take part in association golf tournaments. Bilonozhko may try and find work as a tennis coach in California.
They are expected to leave the Cape Monday.
Mom and son are what comes next for the game.
“The story of war is another story,” Bilonozhko wrote. “Our trip lasted 2 weeks, 3 days … and here we are, after a long adventure with a few small bags and a minimal amount of money. Scratch from our life, from the beginning. But we are athletes, we will certainly cope. ”