Local restaurant donating proceeds to Red Cross for Ukraine

With today marking one year since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, a local Ukrainian-owned business will be setting aside some of its proceeds to benefit humanitarian efforts.

Today and Saturday, Olesya’s Kitchen will donate 15% of its profits to the Red Cross in support of the people of Ukraine. The business is located at 908 C 25th St.in Columbus and will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

“I hope it’s going to finish pretty soon,” said owner Olesya Whitfield.

Whitfield was born in Russia but is Ukrainian, as are both of her parents. She lived in Ukraine for more than 25 years and graduated from a culinary institute in Kyiv. She was 37 years old when she came to the United States. While she is Ukrainian, her restaurant serves other international foods as well.

Some of Whitfield’s family is still living in Kyiv. While they seem to be safe, her daughter has said that some days are scary and “too loud.”

“But we see a lot of families from Ukraine coming into the area,” said Alena McCarron, a friend of Whitfield who has helped the restaurant with business paperwork and its recent relocation. “Not just Columbus, but the Indiana area.”

“Everyday, some new family show up,” Whitfield agreed. Some of her own relatives live in Westfield.

Neither McCarron nor Whitfield expected the war to last this long. Whitfield said that initially, people were calling the invasion a 15-day war. Then the days turned into months.

“And now it’s a year,” she said. “Nobody thinking it’s going to be that long.”

“You ask us a year ago, ‘How you feeling?’” said McCarron. “I didn’t think that we would be having this conversation a year later with you. That’s pretty unreal, that we’re still, the countries are still at war without any signs of ending.”

She added that while the crisis was “really big and visible” a year ago, it seems to have fallen out of the public eye since then.

Earlier this year, Olesya’s Kitchen worked with Columbus East student Ivan Bondar on a similar fundraiser for his senior project. Bondar, who is from Ukraine, came to East in fall of 2021 as an exchange student. He later decided to stay at the school for his senior year and helped bring his mother, Oksana, to the United States as well.

According to McCarron, Bondar’s project raised over $2,000 for the Red Cross.

“Community is power,” said Whitfield. “… I so appreciate it when the community comes together and helps each other.”