What to Know
- NYC restaurants specializing in European cuisine support Ukraine during times of crisis
- Russian restaurants note receiving negative backlash from the community during the foreign war
- Eateries are finding ways to donate supplies and involve residents in aid efforts
New York City restaurants are standing in solidarity with Ukraine as businesses react to the tragedies of the Russian-Ukraine war, witnessing families abroad flee and friends prepare for battle.
The bloodshed overseas has continued for over a week as about 1 million people already fled Ukraine amid heightened fears of a nuclear calamity since Russian forces fired bombs at Europe's largest power plant.
Russians and Ukrainians in the restaurant industry have called loved ones from afar, hoping for messages of safety or a sign of some reprieve.
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Alan Aguichev is the co-owner of Sveta in the West Village, a European eatery named after his Ukrainian mother. His family is from Kharkiv, the second-largest city with over 1.4 million residents in their native country, which is also under siege along with the capital Kyiv.
Before speaking with News 4, Aguichev had just touched base with his family still in Ukraine.
"During the first two days, my family right away went to a shelter in the train station. They had to hide out over there for a few days hoping that the situation would at least die down. Both of my aunts couldn't handle the station," Aguichev said, describing how his family in Ukraine is handling the war.
The family decided to depart from the station and take shelter at his cousin's home, 20 minutes away from the main plaza.
"It's actually really lucky because my aunt wanted to go back her home - two blocks away from Freedom Plaza, and Freedom Plaza just got blown up yesterday," said Aguichev.
In order to get food and supplies, stores will notify Ukrainian residents of the operating hours of the day. Unfortunately, his family could not flee the country as there was no one else to turn to for temporary housing.
With managing an entire Ukrainian staff, Aguichev admits to marketing the restaurant as Russian cuisine as it is more commonly known. He believes this war could send a negative connotation to Russian businesses in the city.
Sveta has already received hateful email messages of "go back home" and is not alone in facing these effects.
Mariia was born in Magnitogorsk, Russia, and is the co-owner of Lower East Side restaurant Tzarevna. She told NBC New York that some of her Russian-speaking employees are afraid of speaking the foreign language in public.
"We make our position on this war clear to everyone, so to make people feel safe and heard. It is sad that it is assumed that since we’re a Russian place, that means we support Russian aggression. This is Putin’s war, not Russian," she noted and continued to say the Ukraine nation is the victim.
The Russian Tea Room is one of the city's iconic staples, publishing a pro-Ukraine statement front and center on the website.
"The Russian Tea Room renounces Russia's unprovoked acts of war in the strongest possible terms. For 95 years, the NY Institution’s History has been deeply rooted in speaking against communist dictatorship and for democracy. Just as the original founders, Soviet defectors who were displaced by the revolution, stood against Stalin’s Soviet Union, we stand against Putin and with the people of Ukraine," the post read.
Established in 1954, Veselka is a Ukrainian coffee shop in the East Village and is asking for donations in supplies, such as batteries, gauze, dry foods, and clothing.
In addition, the website notes all proceeds from take-out and in-store borscht sales will be donated to help Ukraine. Veselka has raised $25,000 in donations as of Friday.
Sveta also plans to launch a GoFundMe page in support of Ukraine.