HONG KONG (Reuters) – The owner of a Ukrainian restaurant in Hong Kong said she has seen an outpouring of support from the city’s residents, who want to donate to community groups that can help mitigate the impact of the war with Russia.
Olena Wang, who is married to a Hong Konger, runs the restaurant Ivan the Kozak together with her daughter. They employ seven people, including Ukrainians and Russians.
Wang says many in Hong Kong have asked how they can help Ukraine in the past week after Russia invaded. As the requests were too many to handle individually, the restaurant began posting online about how people could contribute.
One customer handed over a tip of over HK$10,000 ($1,280) and asked the restaurant to wire the money to those in need. Wang also provides recommendations for people who wish to donate directly to aid groups, including the Red Cross, hospitals and volunteers helping the Ukrainian army.
“We sent this money to Ukraine and sent an email confirmation to him so he knows we sent the money to the right place,” Wang told Reuters, encouraging others to donate. “I want to scream, I want to share my pain with everyone.”
Wang could not estimate how much Hong Kongers have donated. The Ukrainian Society of Hong Kong, an independent network for the Ukrainian community in the city, which also facilitates donations, estimates most people donate HK$1,000 to HK$3,000, but could not estimate total donations.
Ivan the Kozak has operated for 21 years in Hong Kong, offering regional specialities from across Ukraine, as well as teas and vodkas from other countries in Eastern Europe.
As a Ukrainian, Wang said, she has no personal hatred for Russians and only wants peace. There is no animosity among the staff, she added, and Russians living in Hong Kong are lucky because they can have a full picture of the news, unlike those only seeing propaganda at home.
Wang said she had been touched by the “bravery” and “determination” of civil society in Ukraine in the face of war.
Her elderly parents live in a suburb 20km from the Kyiv city centre, and Wang says they are too old and frail to go to bomb shelters, which makes her anxious and angry at the Russian government.
“We don’t want to be a vassal for someone,” Wang said. “We want to be free. We want our children to have a future. We can fight, we can die for this.”
($1 = 7.8142 Hong Kong dollars)
(Reporting by Aleksander Solum; Editing by Marius Zaharia and Gerry Doyle)