Russian family-run restaurant in Japan supports Ukrainian refugees

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Anastasia Stetsyuk, center, and her daughter, Daiana, are seen at their restaurant that serves Russian and Ukrainian dishes in Chuo Ward, Chiba City.

CHIBA — A Russian woman and her daughter who run a Russian restaurant in Chiba are offering to support the daily lives of Ukrainians who have fled their country.

Anastasia Stetsyuk, 40, and her 20-year-old daughter, Daiana, have roots in Ukraine and are providing assistance to Ukrainians by offering them consultations via telephone and on social media, in the hope that people who have gone through hardship as a result of Russia’s invasion will at least feel safe in Japan. They are also considering hiring Ukrainian refugees at their eatery.

“The war has started.” “Bombs were dropped on stations and squares.” Anastasia received such messages on social media from her relatives living in Ukraine on Feb. 24, the day Russia’s invasion began. The two watched the news on TV in dazed silence, though their relatives in Russia said they had heard the action was part of a Russian military exercise.

The mother and daughter are from Khabarovsk in the Russian Far East. Anastasia’s father, a native of Ukraine, moved to Khabarovsk with his family during World War II when she was a child. About 20 years ago, Anastasia came to Japan for her work. Daiana later joined her mother at age 6. Four years ago, they opened a Russian restaurant called Matryoshka near JR Chiba Station in Chuo Ward, Chiba City.

Anastasia, who has close ties to Ukraine, was heartbroken by the tragic news coming out daily and could not sit still. After expressing her willingness to support people on the restaurant’s social media account, she was contacted by Ukrainian people in Japan.

So far, she has communicated with about 10 such people. They include a mother in her 40s and a man who fled Ukraine alone, and Anastasia was asked where they could receive relief money or find jobs in places where they were taking refuge. She introduced them to government agencies when necessary.

Some of them shed tears as they spoke to Anastasia and Daiana about their concerns. Daiana had difficulty understanding Japanese when she was a child. “In a foreign country, just having someone to lean on can be helpful,” she said.

Anastasia has many relatives and friends in Ukraine. Daiana said, “The languages are similar, and I’ve been familiar with Ukrainian books and songs since I was a child.”

Meanwhile, thoughtless messages such as “Go back to your home country,” and “Are you still in Japan?” were posted on the restaurant’s social media account. However, Anastasia and Daiana are determined to continue doing what they can to help Ukrainians. They want to hire Ukrainians at their restaurant if work visas are granted.

They believe that a large circle of support can be created if people work together.