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Molega Lake resident recognized by President Biden and Prime Minister Trudeau

By Evan Taylor Mar 27, 2023 | 5:03 PM

Natalia Antoniak was invited to the House of Commons as a guest of the Prime Minister for US President Joe Biden's visit. Photo: CPAC.

It has been an exhilarating few weeks for Natalia Antoniak (Belcher) who received a standing ovation during her recent visit to the House of Commons.

Antoniak moved to Nova Scotia twelve years ago, emigrating from Ukraine. Since then she has started a family on the South Shore and began a career at the Michelin facility in Bridgewater.

The story of how she ended up at the House of Commons as a guest of the Prime Minister started on a normal work day for Anotniak. “I noticed there were a lot of new faces around and people dressed up so I asked what was going on, and was told the Prime Minister was visiting,” she said.

The Prime Minister was in town it turns out to announce over $300 million in investments for Michelin, which in itself was exciting news for Antoniak.

During the Prime Minister’s visit, he met with many employees including Antoniak. “I told him I was from Ukraine and that got his attention, then I mentioned President Zelensky and how he’s known to hug his guests, he then asked if I wanted a hug and I was amazed he did that and gladly accepted his offer,”.

Anotniak described the experience as surreal, noting that she could feel the Prime Minister’s compassion and genuine concern while they were speaking.

A week later she was called into the office by Michelin management who told her the Prime Minister had invited her to come to the House of Commons for US President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit.

“They invited around 40 regular citizens just like me, Canada has close to 40 million people so that alone made me think this was a one-in-a-million opportunity,”.

She says when she arrived with Ottawa she was amazed by how she was treated by government officials and dignitaries. Staff with the Prime Minister’s office then explained that she might be referenced during the Prime Minister’s remarks and may be called on to give a slight nod.

The Prime Minister had something else in mind, talking about Antoniak’s story in far more detail than she could have imagined and the Prime Minister then asked her to stand and wave, which was met with a standing ovation.

“It was amazing, I know these people they cheer not for me but for my country, and seeing all these government officials express their concern for my country was beautiful,”.

President Joe Biden, followed suit during his remarks in the House of Commons while discussing the conflict in Ukraine he referred to Antoniak as a “lovely woman” who was an example of Ukrainian perseverance.

Antoniak never expected the Prime Minister and President to both reference her and she upgraded her earlier characterization of the event from one in a million to one in a billion.

Since her visit to Ottawa, Anotiak says the response has been overwhelming. Her father who usually doesn’t use social media went out of his way to share the story, and she says she received countless messages from friends and acquaintances congratulating her.

Antoniak has also done interviews with Ukrainian media sharing her story in her native language with those people still living in the wartorn nation.

She also expressed thanks to Michelin, the Prime Minister and his office, and all the Canadians who hang Ukrainian flags which she says is a powerful message that the free world stands with Ukraine.





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