Three friends forced to flee war open Ukrainian restaurant in Wales
Three Ukrainian friends who left their war-torn country decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign with the aim of setting up their own restaurant in North Wales. Julia ‘Yuliia’ Mikhailova, her friends Katya and Olya and their children, left Ukraine in April this year and have since relocated to the Caernarfon area of Gwynedd.
According to Yuliia, the three women have different professions but one thing unites them, it’s the passion for cooking. In an attempt to stay closer to home and embrace their newfound, the group of friends are determined to start their own Ukrainian cuisine restaurant in North Wales.
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“We want to open a Ukrainian restaurant in North Wales and call it Sunflower,” Yulia told WalesOnline. “I thought about opening a restaurant in Ukraine, but inner fears stopped me.
“Everyone here raves about the food I cook, and my friends cook well – so we started to find out how realistic it was to open a restaurant or a food truck in North Wales. . Turned out it was totally possible.”
The aim of the restaurant is to serve typical Ukrainian dishes such as borscht, dumplings, Kyiv cutlets, as well as mixed Ukrainian-British dishes. According to Yuliia, British and Ukrainian cuisines are quite similar and she hopes to infuse the two not only to introduce people in North Wales to new foods, but also to try and help her compatriots.
Yuliia said: “Meeting Ukrainians who have come to North Wales, I learned that our artists also come here. I think it will be interesting to design a restaurant with them in our national style.
“Besides, having gone abroad, you ask yourself the question – so, I am safe, how can I help those who remain, those whose houses are destroyed, those who defend our homeland at the front? Therefore, my friends and I decided to permanently transfer part of the profits to the war victims relief fund.
Yuliia is from Kharkiv – the second largest city in Ukraine, located in the northeastern part of the country. The city was heavily targeted by Russian bombardment, with many residents killed and city buildings destroyed.
Yuliia vividly remembers the start of the invasion. She recalls: “The first day of the war was very scary. We woke up to the sound of artillery fire and immediately started picking things up. The children were still asleep and we did not wake them up. After collecting three backpacks and a pram, we left the house and began our journey into the unknown.
“Under the noise of the bombardments, we left the city. Kharkiv is a big city of one and a half million people, so all the roads turned into long traffic jams. We still managed to leave the city and continue our way to the Moldavian border. It was also quite difficult physically and emotionally.”
She added: “Nevertheless, our whole life remained in Kharkiv. But the safety of children is more important, so we do not regret our decision to temporarily leave Ukraine.
Yuliia has known Katya for many years, who came to North Wales on Yuliia’s recommendation. The two met Olya in the area, but according to Yulia, it looks like they’ve been “friends for a long time.”
“The war united many Ukrainians,” Yuliia said. “We seem to be siblings.
“We love living in North Wales. It’s quiet and peaceful here, with very friendly people. There is also wonderful nature here. We wake up to birdsong, lots of green pastures with sheep and cows.
“It’s true, the weather is often windy and rainy, which you get used to for now. There are many similarities with Ukraine, but there are also important differences. In general, we feel comfortable here.
According to Yuliia, opening a restaurant would be a “dream come true”. The three friends have been busy researching how to open and run a business. Yuliia added, “It will be a big responsibility, but I feel excitement and joy to open a restaurant here.
“My friends and I are looking forward to this. Food is what brings people together and this idea is so important right now.”