“I will continue to offer shelter and food for as long as I can,” said Manish Dave, the owner of “Saathiya” restaurant in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. Manish Dave’s restaurant has offered shelter and food to scores of people in recent days as people were urged to take shelter amid deadly bombardment from Russia.
His restaurant now houses dozens of children, pregnant women, students, homeless people and the elderly. It has provided food and shelter to over 132 people so far.
Dave came to Kyiv from Vadodara from Gujarat in 2021 with the intention of opening an Indian restaurant for Indian students studying in the country. “I opened the restaurant to bring Indian culture to the country,” Dave told The Washington Post.
Located near a hostel for international students at the National Medical University of Bogomelets, he opened his restaurant in January. ” Everything was going fine. Suddenly all these things happened here. There were fires, explosions, bombs. It was very frightening. People are scared,” he said.
After a series of explosions as civilians desperately sought shelter, Dave thought about opening the doors to his restaurant. He said, “A basement is a safe place. The place is so big and I should help.”
At first he reached out to his customers, who are mostly students, then he posted on social media, inviting anyone in need of shelter or food. “If you don’t have a safe place to stay during this time, please go,” he posted. He added the address of his restaurant. “We will do our best to organize free food and stay within our capabilities. Stay united with Ukraine,” he said.
“Any nationality, anyone can come here and take shelter,” he told the Washington Post.
Ukrainian national Natali Antontseva, who took refuge in Dave’s restaurant, said: “I can’t express how happy we were when we entered a clean, warm room with a pleasant smell of spices. Indians. Despite the fact that there was not much space, the doors were opened for everyone. They offered us hot tea and dinner. I was also happy for my pregnant friend who could sleeping on a small sofa instead of a cold basement floor where we were before.
Nataliya Hernandez Flor and her family have been at Dave’s shelter since Thursday. She said Dave and his employees were “very hospitable, polite and attentive”.
Dave takes no financial help from people who have taken refuge in his restaurant. Instead, he asks them to help him run errands. “We are like one family. We all bring things, not money. People donate rice, food and vegetables. We all contribute and share,” he said.
He said his family in India were worried. However, he hopes to stay in Ukraine for the time being and plans to leave if the situation worsens. In this case, he will give the keys to the people who have taken refuge in the restaurant.