Hampton restaurant owner tells story of family who fled Ukraine
HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – While grabbing a drink or a bite to eat at the For Girls restaurant in Hampton, you might notice the Ukrainian flag hanging above the bar.
For owner Iryna Patterson, it’s a reminder of home.
“I feel guilty. I feel like if I moved there I wouldn’t be here. Maybe I could have made some changes – I’ll be there too fighting for my country,” he said. said Patterson.
As she physically runs her two businesses, her heart and mind constantly think of her family in Ukraine.
“My sister said it started with the sirens, kind of like an emergency, and everyone was worried but nobody thought it was going to come to that. Then a day later the bombing started… When the bombing started to be so frequent and near my house, and on top of that my niece started nosebleeds from the shelling, shaking and gunpowder Yes that was the last straw for my sister” , Patterson said.
When Russian forces began invading Ukraine, her mother, sister and niece who live in kyiv made the dangerous journey to Poland. She says they were sleeping in train stations and bomb shelters and homeless. When they approached the border, they had to walk five miles in the cold. His mother, sister and niece have since arrived in Italy.
She says her father and cousins are not allowed to leave the country in case they need to fight.
“My two uncles and cousins - who are 19, 20 year old kids – in my mind they had to take guns, weapons and just go defend [their] country,” Patterson said.
She says she won’t be at peace until the war is over. In the meantime, she is doing all she can to help, starting with fundraising to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
The idea was brought to him by another local business owner, Alex Cormier. He owns The Local Print Shoppe in Virginia Beach.
“My mom’s whole side is still there and obviously I’m not at my best. I’m here in America, I can’t go fight. So what can I do? I can make sales,” Cormier said.
He will be selling stickers and t-shirts at the event to raise funds.
They hope the community will step in and answer their call for help.
Click here to view the fundraiser flyer with full event details.