War in Ukraine: Refugees offer help through Calgary restaurant
A Calgary restaurant, owned by a couple from Uzbekistan and Russia, is doing what it can to support those who have fled war in Ukraine.
Pilav Central, on Macleod Trail SE, has already hired four Ukrainians – all professional cooks – who came to Canada earlier this year.
Elena Pinkhasov, who is Russian, says the idea of working with Ukrainians came from the couple’s previous businesses.
“For over 13 years we ran a cleaning business in Edmonton and Calgary and over those years we worked with many Ukrainian women,” she said. “I’m getting to know them and we get on really, really well.”
She says that the relatives of these people fled to Canada following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I thought it would be great for us to do our part and give them an opportunity, not only to get shelter and financial help, but rather to integrate into society.”
She says the couple hope others can learn from their example and understand that not everyone in Russia is okay with what is happening.
“It’s not about people,” Elena said. “Everyone we work with feels the same. They feel that even though we are a Russian-speaking family, they have great respect for us as we do for them.”
Elena says her own experience as a Canadian immigrant helped inspire her.
“If it weren’t for the kindness of Canadian citizens, I would feel very alone in Canada.”
Elena and Reuben Pinkhasov say they have great respect for their employees and what they went through to come to Canada.
Reuben Pinkhasov, who runs the Uzbek side of the restaurant, says many people in Calgary have welcomed them and their food.
“They were excited,” he said. “Most people were like, ‘Oh, thank you. We love trying new dishes.’ People were very grateful and generally Canadians are always polite.
“We’re seeing more and more people coming back and asking for pilav, so that means it’s a success.”
In addition to employment, the owners of Pilav Central help their employees learn English. They also offer them a flexible schedule so they can study while continuing to work full time.
“All of them speak the same language, so they feel at home,” Elena said. “They can speak Ukrainian while cooking, so they feel right at home.”
(With files by Kevin Green)