Ukraine café helps exiles with fundraising

time:2023-05-29 12:26:03 source:Al Jazeera

A Ukrainian woman has come out of retirement to open a restaurant to help refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.

Lena Sutherland moved to Hull in the 1990s after meeting and marrying a local man who was serving in the merchant navy.

Before retiring she ran a city-centre deli serving traditional Ukrainian food for a number of years.

When the war began she hosted fundraising dinners to help raise money for newly arrived refugees.

From that the idea developed to open a café serving Ukrainian cuisine in the city centre.

"I noticed refugees who came over they felt lonely and were missing their families and their houses," she said.

"I thought it would be nice to have a place where they could get together."

The restaurant on Albion Street opens seven days a week and many of the staff are Ukrainian exiles, some with family still in the country and many with relatives serving in the armed forces.

Mrs Sutherland said that at weekends Ukrainians travel from across the region to meet and eat.

"One family came with their granddaughter and after dinner the woman said with tears 'just like home', I was very touched," she said.

The menu features favourites such as potato cakes and Holubtsy, cabbage leaves stuffed with meat, rice and onions.

Some of the proceeds from the restaurant are donated to support the local Ukrainian community. They also host other fundraising events, such as art auctions and have paid for generators and other aid to be shipped to Kyiv.

Lena's son and sister-in-law still remain in Ukraine along with her one-month old granddaughter, who she is yet to meet.

She hopes to return to the country for a visit in the new year after hosting a party to mark the Ukrainian Christmas celebrations on 7 January.

Mrs Sutherland said she is proud of the "Ukrainian spirit".

"There is no water some times," she said.

"Most of the time no lights, no electric, no heat and they still believe they should stand and survive and win. No one complains.

"They believe they will win and are waiting for the better times."

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