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Ukranian Restaurant Serves Up More Than Comfort Food to Refugees Who Have Fled The War

On a recent evening at Corner of Ukraine in Nyack, wait staff in traditional Ukrainian outfits rushed by couples wearing Vyshyvanka blouses with hand-stitched embroidery, identifiable by region and offering protection.

Ukrainian homes are typically painted white and filled with flowers. 

At Corner of Ukraine on Nyack’s Main Street, yellow sunflowers warm the dining room and floral designs bring splashes of color to the Kosiv art and painted plates that speckle the airy room. 

A solitary bench against the wall is a nod to the Ukrainian preference for familial dining. The thatched roof above the bar imitates many of the homes in Ukraine, while murals by prominent Ukrainian artists adorn the bathrooms. 

The menu is traditional, with dishes like Borscht, Kyiv cutlet and tongue — along with 20 wines from Poland and Latvia.

Corner of Ukraine invites diners to try traditional Ukranian fare in a fitting atmosphere. (Photo by Andrea Swenson)

Maria Grinblatt, one of the owners of Corner of Ukraine, fled Ukraine eight years ago with her her sister, Ivanka Dashko.

Grinblatt had worked as a journalist back home; her sister practiced law.

“Our parents followed us to America but many of our relatives remained there,” Grinblatt said, seated at one of the empty tables ahead of the Saturday dinner rush. 

Dashko opened a catering business in Westchester while Grinblatt worked for a monthly publication called the New City Neighbors. 

A couple opened a Corner of Ukraine in 2023 to meet the needs of the growing Ukranian population. (Photo by Andrea Swenson)

Ivanka sponsored nine refugees when Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, her sister said.

Grinblatt also felt the need to reach out to the Ukrainian community and founded the  Blue Yellow Foundation a nonprofit that raises money to provide medical and other aid to Ukrainians on the front lines and to those who have been displaced.

Here in Nyack, she has been helping in a different way since December 2023: dishing out comfort food in familiar surroundings, and serving many who, like her, have only memories of Ukraine since they were forced from their homes. 

“Although there was a large Ukrainian population in the county, there weren’t any restaurants serving our native food,” said Dashko.

Almost 6.5 million Ukrainian refugees have been recorded globally as of February, according to the United Nations, and tens of thousands have come to New York state, according to Gothamist.

“Of an original population of 46 million, only 9 million remain. Half have fled and half have died. Ukrainians believe their country is the first of many nations to be conquered by Putin,” Grinblatt said, motioning for the waiter to sit down and join us.

The staff is mostly Ukrainian too, and while the eatery boasts “attentive and personalized service,” many are dealing with weighty matters of life and death as they serve up staples like Solyanka, Holubsti, and Perogies. 

A waiter at Corner of Ukraine presents a colorful meal. (Photo by Andrea Swenson)

That is the case for Val Chuiko, a 23-year-old hostess who arrived in the United States in September. (Photo by Andrea Swenson)

“I grew up in Ivano-Frankivsk, where the airport was bombed,” she said. “I’m an artist and paint portraits of friends who have died.”

“How many have you completed?” this reporter asked.

 “Six,” she said.

Oleksandr Androik, a19-year-old server, made his way to the US 18 months ago.

“I grew up in Chernivtsi. When the war began I worked in a hotel. After the bombing started, hundreds of people fled their homes and ran to the hotel,” he said.

“They slept on the floor or in hallways. Two of my friends died at Bucha. Another friend took a video from his trench. Out of 20 soldiers, 10 had died.” 

On a recent evening, staff in traditional Ukrainian outfits rushed by couples wearing Vyshyvanka blouses with hand-stitched embroidery, identifiable by region and offering protection.

Religious icons, wooden Easter eggs, and dolls sat on small sets of shelves near the entrance.

A poem by Lina Kostenko on the back wall encouraged diners to take in the beauty around them.

Corner of Ukraine feels more like a home than a restaurant, even if it’s a struggle at times to keep the tables filled with newcomers. 

“In Ukraine we have slogan:” the About Us section of the restaurant’s website reads. “The best food is made when you put there a piece of your soul. We wanna welcome you to see big Ukrainian soul and taste these dishes what was made with love from Ukrainian people to All American people. Welcome!”

A Corner of Ukraine: 85 Main Street, Nyack, NY 

More resources for Ukranians who have settled in New York can be found here. 

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