Ukrainian refugee: ‘For me it is better here, but I cry every day for my hometown’

Exactly two years ago today, Russia invaded Ukraine. Kristina Nazarchuk (32) from Odessa fled to the Netherlands with her mother and went to work at pancake restaurant ‘t Moatie in Gasselte.

She likes it here. “It’s a really good country with good people who always smile. I like that, yes. And I feel safe here. For me it’s better here. I have a good job and a good boss. He’s a good man ,” says Nazarchuk.

She cries for her hometown every day and follows the news closely. “There are bombings every evening and it is very dangerous. In my city there were bombings last night and two people were killed.”

Yet she still regularly returns to Odessa for a week or two weeks to visit her grandmother and friends. She is saddened to see how badly the city has been damaged. “There are destroyed buildings everywhere. Hospitals and schools have also been hit by the bombings.”

Returning to Odessa becomes further out of sight the longer the war continues. “If the war ends tomorrow, I would go back, yes. But if the war ends in a year, I don’t think I will go back.”

Nazarchuk lives with about 200 Ukrainians in the reception center in Papenvoort. She’s having a great time there.

Owner Herman Meppelink of ‘t Moatie started a year and a half ago with two Ukrainian employees and now twenty of the sixty employees are Ukrainian. “They still have some of the norms and values ​​that we were taught in the past. And I can’t always say that about today’s youth,” he laughs.

They arrange the schedule themselves. “I give the ladies at the dishes and the bar a schedule every week and then they make their own work schedule. I don’t have to worry about it. I am very happy with the Ukrainian employees,” says Meppelink.

Nazarchuk can now understand and speak some Dutch. Although she usually misses Dutch lessons at the shelter because of her work. She now knows the table numbers and can say what she is serving in Dutch. “A red wine?” she asks a couple she serves. It’s for the man at the table. “A white wine, please,” she says as she serves the wine to the woman in his company. “Enjoy!”

It is said that the best way to learn a language is through a relationship with a Dutch person. “I’m single. But who knows what the future holds.”

She does have a message for the people of Drenthe: “I want to say: thank you for helping the Ukrainians. Thank you.”