CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is taking a toll on a Cumberland County restaurant owner who grew up there. abc27 spoke to the owner of Tatiana’s Restaurant in February before the invasion began.
At the time, owner Tatiana Elseaidy said she was not very worried about her friends and family back home, but now, she said some of them have 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 Tatiana’s 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, then still part of the Soviet Union.
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She remembered her childhood as fun and peaceful, celebrating holidays with the whole neighborhood.
“We would just sit as a big family, singing Ukrainian songs and eat Ukrainian food,” she said.
Though most of Elseaidy’s family is in the U.S., she still has one aunt back home. For now, she said her family is safe, in a less dangerous part of the country, but she is still worried.
“Majority of times, especially nights, she spent in shelter,” Elseaidy said.
She also has several friends who are fleeing the capital city Kyiv, 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 gets more and more painful.
“I see how many beautiful cities been destroyed, it’s hurt my heart,” she said.
She also said so many of the things she remembers about Ukraine no longer exist because of the war. This is not the country she remembers spending her childhood in.
“We were dreaming about bright future, but unfortunately everything change[d],” she said.
There are some small comforts. Elseaidy said she has been 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 got this paper from him, I burst just in 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 wants the violence to end.
“Every day I wake up, I just pray for better life for them,” she said.
Elseaidy also said the hardest thing to watch has been families being forced to leave husbands and fathers behind. Ukraine is not allowing men between 18 and 60 to leave the country.