Indianapolis News and HeadlinesIndianapolis Local NewsBartholomew County


Columbus restaurant owner with family still overseas reflects on Ukrainian war a year later

"Ukraine is a beautiful country, we don't want to fight."
Posted at 8:13 PM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-24 21:17:05-05

COLUMBUS — A transplant Hoosier who made her way to Indiana more than 20 years ago is feeling the impact of the war in Ukraine.

Olesya Whitfield is serving up tastes from her home country as a way to provide help to those left behind.

Olesya's Kitchen in Columbus serves traditional Ukrainian dishes including stuffed bell peppers, chicken stroganoff and borscht. Everything is made from scratch.

WRTV first took you inside the restaurant last year,days after the invasion.

Today, her family is still in Ukraine, more than 5,000 miles away.

"It was tough because my daughter and my granddaughter are there," Whitfield said. "I try to be strong. Every day, [my daughter] sends me 'mom, I am okay' — my son says the same thing. 'Mom everything is fine." Every day."

Olesya Whitfield reflects on her family still in Ukraine

A year after the war between Ukraine and Russia started she still hurts daily.

"It makes me sad when I read the news, this dead, this died," she said. "We were brothers; I never thought that my Russian brother going to do my country that thing."

The United Nations (UN) human rights office datashows at least 8,000 non-combatants have been confirmed killed and there are nearly 13,300 injured. However, they say the true number is likely to be substantially higher.

Olesya's Kitchen is a place other Ukrainian natives like Alex Gor find comfort it.

"The first day when Ukraine was invaded, I felt angry. Now, I just feel sad," Gor said. "Ukraine is thousands of miles away from the United States, but in our globalized world, that doesn't mean anything."

Whitfield says she longs for the day the war will end.

"I pray for some day in the morning we wake up and somebody says it's finished," Whitfield said.

Olesya Whitfield

She is collecting donations to take to the Red Cross so they can send them to Ukraine.

"Ukraine is a beautiful country; we don't want to fight," Whitfield said.

Olesya Whitfield's best friend