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New Yorkers line up around the block to support Ukrainian restaurant

Americans have rallied together to show their support for Ukraine as the nation battles an ongoing invasion from Russia, with crowds lining the streets for a table at East Village’s Ukrainian restaurant, Veselka, following the Russian invasion.

More than 100 New Yorkers joined a line wrapping around the block in a show of solidarity with Ukraine and the almost 70-year-old restaurant.

‘I’m surprised by the crowds, but then again, I’m not. It’s kind of like we’re everybody’s favorite living room and I am grateful and thankful for that,’ said Jason Birchard, Veselka’s owner. 

‘Many of our staff members are Ukrainian. Everyone is up all night, talking to family members. Some are so distraught, they can’t even come to work. They are hanging by a thread, feeling so angry, upset and helpless,’ added Birchard, who has been working 16 hour days since the invasion.  

New Yorkers wait in a long line at a Ukrainian diner Veselka to show solidarity in the wake of Russia’s invasion on February 25, 2022

Pictured: New Yorkers waiting in line for Lower East Side Ukrainian restaurant Veselka after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began last week

Pictured: New Yorkers waiting in line for Lower East Side Ukrainian restaurant Veselka after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began last week

The mural facade outside of Veselka restaurant in the Lower East Side, where over 100 patrons could be seen lined up around the block in support of Ukrainians

The mural facade outside of Veselka restaurant in the Lower East Side, where over 100 patrons could be seen lined up around the block in support of Ukrainians 

A Ukrainian flag hangs outside of Veselka on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in New York

A Ukrainian flag hangs outside of Veselka on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022, in New York

People dine inside Veselka where a Ukrainian flag hangs in the East Village, Friday, February 25, 2022, in New York on the date of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

People dine inside Veselka where a Ukrainian flag hangs in the East Village, Friday, February 25, 2022, in New York on the date of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Jason Birchard, pictured, owner of Veselka, said he has been working 16 hour days at the restaurant since the invasion

Jason Birchard, pictured, owner of Veselka, said he has been working 16 hour days at the restaurant since the invasion

The restaurant, which opened in 1954 and was famous for its 24-hour service prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, serves Ukrainian comfort food, ranging from pierogis to borscht. 

One customer, a 29-year-old Ukrainian-born medical technician who only gave her name as Tanya, told the New York Post that Veselka is ‘a very symbolic, special place.’

‘My heart is always there. I try to support it as much as I can,’ said Tanya who came to the restaurant wrapped in a yellow and blue Ukrainian flag.  

Those colors have illuminated skyscrapers, including the Empire State Building, buildings and national monuments since Russia invaded last week.

Tanya added that her own family back in Ukraine is currently ‘surrounded by lots of Russians and tanks.’ 

But thankfully the tanks are out of fuel and the most serious bombing has stopped for now.

‘But it was pretty bad,’ she said. ‘My family is still hiding in basements and the Russians were shooting at a kindergarten while kids were there and some died. My entire family is still in Ukraine, my parents, brother, uncles, aunts and friends.’

The Empire State Building is illuminated colors of Ukrainian flag in New York City, United States on February 25, 2022

Pictured: the State Education Building lights up in the colors of the Ukrainian flag on Sunday February 27, 2022 in Manhattan

The Empire State Building, left, and the State Education Building, right, are illuminated colors of Ukrainian flag in New York City

Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is illuminated in the colors of Ukraine's flag in support of their efforts during Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 27, 2022 in Washington, DC

Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is illuminated in the colors of Ukraine’s flag in support of their efforts during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 27, 2022 in Washington, DC

A red traffic light frames the George Washington Masonic National Memorial which is lit with blue and yellow lights in support of Ukraine, in Alexandria, Virginia on Saturday

A red traffic light frames the George Washington Masonic National Memorial which is lit with blue and yellow lights in support of Ukraine, in Alexandria, Virginia on Saturday

Several hundred people participate in a Stop the Bloodshed in Ukraine rally on February 27, 2022 in Santa Monica, California

Several hundred people participate in a Stop the Bloodshed in Ukraine rally on February 27, 2022 in Santa Monica, California

Another patron, identified only as Susan, added why she too felt compelled to dine at Veselka in support of Ukrainians on Saturday. 

‘We came to Little Ukraine tonight to do something, to show some sort of support for the brave people of Ukraine,’ she told the Post. 

‘My husband and I printed a dozen shirts with President Zelenskyy’s statement: ‘The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

‘It gave us comfort to pass these out and listen to the stories of others who are worrying about family, friends and humanity. President Zelensky and his people are brave, fighting to live in peace and freedom. We pray this ends quickly, with the outcome of peace and freedom for Ukraine,’ she continued.  

Meanwhile, protesters carrying signs and waving flags have flooded the streets outside the White House, as well as in other major US cities, and called on leaders to take action against Russia.  

Pictured: the I-35W Bridge glows blue and yellow in support of the people of Ukraine in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 25, 2022

Pictured: the I-35W Bridge glows blue and yellow in support of the people of Ukraine in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on February 25, 2022

Demonstrators during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday, February 28, 2022

Demonstrators during a protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday, February 28, 2022

Ukrainians and people gather around the Lafayette Park in front of the White House in Washington DC to stage a protest against Russia's attacks on Ukraine, on February 27, 2022.

Ukrainians and people gather around the Lafayette Park in front of the White House in Washington DC to stage a protest against Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, on February 27, 2022.

The large crowds began coming together, both in Washington DC, in front of Veselka and across the country, after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 25.  

The colors of the Ukrainian flag have illuminated skyscrapers and monuments nationwide, including the Empire State Building, State Education Building, George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and more, since Russia invaded the country last week. 

‘It’s been like this for days,’ said a manager, who has been working 16 hour days since the invasion…

‘We’re just trying to keep up,’ said Birchard.

‘Everyone is pitching in. Managers are working as cashiers and cooks are working seven days a week.’

Birchard added that the restaurant has always served as a gathering point for the Ukrainian community in New York, including everything from 9/11, Superstorm Sandy, the Orange Revolution of 2005 to Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea. 


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