Ukrainian restaurateur reacts to Russian invasion
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is taking its toll on a Cumberland County restaurant owner who grew up there. abc27 spoke to restaurant owner Tatiana in February before the invasion began.
At the time, owner Tatiana Elseaidy said she wasn’t very worried about her friends and family back home, but now she said some of them had lost everything.
“We just feel helpless,” she said.
She described the Russian invasion of her homeland as shocking, calling it “brutal and terrible events”.
Elseaidy runs the Tatiana Restaurant in Lower Allen Township with her husband, a business the two have run for 15 years. However, she spent the first 20 years of her life in Ukraine, which was then still part of the Soviet Union.
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She remembered her childhood as fun and peaceful, celebrating the holidays with the whole neighborhood.
“We were just sitting like one big family, singing Ukrainian songs and eating Ukrainian food,” she said.
Although most of Elseaidy’s family is in the United States, she still has an aunt at home. For now, she says her family is safe, in a less dangerous part of the country, but she is still worried.
“Most of the time, especially the nights, she spent in a shelter,” Elseaidy said.
She also has several friends fleeing the capital Kiev, trying to get to Poland.
“They lost everything. They couldn’t even withdraw money for this trip, so they left with nothing,” she said.
For Elseaidy, watching the news is becoming increasingly painful.
“I see how many beautiful cities have been destroyed, it hurts my heart,” she said.
She also said that so many things she remembers about Ukraine no longer exist because of the war. This is not the country in which she remembers spending her childhood.
“We dreamed of a bright future, but unfortunately everything has changed[d],” she says.
There are a few comforts. Elseaidy said she was touched by messages of support from her customers, including flowers and cards. She said a young boy gave her a drawing that said “in solidarity with Ukraine”.
“When I received this paper from him, I burst into tears,” she said. Elseaidy also said she took a picture of the drawing and sent it to all her friends in Ukraine.
More than anything, Elseaidy said she wanted the violence to stop.
“Every day I wake up just praying for a better life for them,” she said.
Elseaidy also said the hardest thing to watch was families being forced to leave their husbands and fathers behind. Ukraine does not allow men between the ages of 18 and 60 to leave the country.