On Thursday August 18, newly turned 13-year-old Katya celebrated her birthday in Montreal, Quebec with her mother, Olga. It was a little different than what she’s accustomed to. That’s because it was her first since the pair arrived in Canada from their home country, Ukraine. “It was a little unusual to celebrate a birthday without relatives and friends,” she said.

Earlier this year, having been approached by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Ukrainian Tennis Federation, Tennis Canada raised its hand to help a family in need. “It’s just so tragic, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking to see what’s happening in Ukraine,” said Hatem McDadi, Senior Vice President of High-Performance Development at Tennis Canada. 

“When the ITF reached out to our CEO and the Chair of our Board at the time, we said of course we would help. Olga and Katya were really eager to receive that support. We rallied the tennis community and feel so grateful and appreciative for so many kind and generous people that provided a lot of support. We were able to work with Tennis Montreal, Tennis Quebec, partners, our staff and national coaches to help support Katya and her family as they settle into their new home. Katya and her family have been through so much. They have shown tremendous courage, resilience and at the same time are grateful to our tennis community for helping in a time of need.”

A promising tennis player in Ukraine, Katya has seen her life turned upside down by the war taking place in Europe. Of course, the fear for the safety of her loved ones has always been top of mind, but the limitations the conflict has put on her tennis development has also been frustrating for the teenager. “Since the beginning of the war, I had no coach and my level of tennis began to gradually fall – which made me very upset,” she said.

So, when the opportunity to come to Canada was presented to the family, Katya, Olga and their 14-year-old dog, Lola, decided to make the trip to Montreal via Munich, where they spent some time waiting for their visa applications to be approved.

Once they arrived in Quebec, Katya was invited to train at a program run by Tennis Montreal with Tennis Canada funding her participation. She also takes part in a weekly session at the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers under the tutelage of some of Canada’s most prominent coaches.

“Canada and all the kind and generous donors and people involved have done a lot for us,” Katya explained. “They helped us with paperwork, provided us with flights, accommodation, participation in tournaments and most importantly for me, they found me a place to train and a coach. They have great courts and a great team of coaches, and it gives me great pleasure to train with them. Most of the time I train with Montreal Excellence – this is exactly the kind of training I need.”

“Overall, I’m just so grateful to Canada, Tennis Canada, Tennis Montreal, the Montreal Excellence team and everyone who made donations for everything they have done for me,” she added.

Katya (left) and her mother, Olga, at the National Bank Open in Montreal.

Katya’s schedule includes schoolwork each morning, followed by sports study in the afternoon, which consists of two hours on-court and one hour of fitness. Her assigned coach, Mira Teodorescu, is originally from Romania and played Junior Billie Jean King Cup (then Fed Cup) for her country before moving to Canada 18 years ago. It’s safe to say Katya has made quite the impression on her.

“My first meeting with Katya was in September when the program started at Tennis Montreal,” Mira began. “It was a very nice meeting because Katya was so kind, so determined, so social and so easy to talk to.”

“Katya works so hard,” she continued. “She came here so open minded, and she wants to learn everything. Every day I spend with her is a blessing. She changed my life because I saw a different aspect on life. Sometimes players give up if it’s difficult, but she never gives up. She always wants to improve. It takes time but she will be a great person and a great tennis player.”

Already, Katya is making her presence felt on the Canadian junior tennis circuit, picking up titles at events in Ottawa (pictured above with trophy) and Drummondville. During the summer, she was also invited to attend the National Bank Open presented by Rogers as the ATP Tour’s stars descended on Montreal for a week-long festival of tennis.

“Thanks to Tennis Canada, I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful ATP tournament in Montreal – it was an unforgettable experience,” she said. “I saw the game of the best tennis players in the world live.”

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