MINNEAPOLIS — There's a lot of Ukrainian pride at Kramarczuk's Sausage Company and Deli in Minneapolis. There's the food of course, and the Ukrainian flags scattered across the store. And the people.
"We are Ukrainian,” Orest Kramarczuk says.
Orest is a 2nd generation Ukrainian born in Minnesota. His parents started Kramarczuk’s 69 years ago after fleeing Ukraine after World War 2.
“They left Ukraine and lived in Germany for a while before they moved to Minnesota,” Orest explains.
Here in Minnesota, the couple found a new life and a new community of Ukrainian immigrants.
"When my father was around when a new immigrant would come into the store my father would pack up a bag of groceries for them to take home. Right away he wanted them to feel like they were home,” Orest says.
And if anyone needed a job, Orest’s parents would try to find a spot for them in the store.
"Kramarczuk’s was an incubator for so many immigrants. People would start here and learn English and American culture and then move on to other jobs. A lot of them come back here to this very day saying this was my very first job in America,” Orest says.
So, when Orest first heard about the war in Ukraine he immediately wanted to help.
His son Nick is now the main owner and operator of Kramarczuk’s and together they started hiring Ukrainian refugees who needed a job.
Refugees like Natalia started working in the restaurant six months ago.
"She has a lot of pride in working in a restaurant in the United States,” Natalia says through Orest’s translation
And 19-year-old Oleg who works in the deli.
"I’m from Mariupol,” Oleg says.
“Mariupol,” Orest adds. “That's the city that Putin just visited last weekend and he totally leveled."
A city that's now under Russian control, but here in Minneapolis Oleg has found a home away from home.
"They came to eat here,” Orest says.
“And now I work here,” Oleg interrupts.
“And now he works here,” Orest laughs.
Oleg was studying for a culinary degree in Ukraine and is happy to use those skills here in America.
“I like to cook,” Oleg says.
"He's able to give us some tips on how things should taste. Right?” Orest says.
“Right,” Oleg laughs.
And there have been others.
Nearly everyone who works at Kramarczuk’s these days is Ukrainian.
"We've hired about 13 of them,” Orest says. “13 refugees since the war started.”
Thirteen people and Orest see his parents in every single one of them.
"The war, and the people, when I first saw that I started crying because that was my parents. They had all their belongings in a wicker basket, which we have in the basement here. That's all they had when they came over to this country,” Orest says.
And though he and his son Nick are the ones providing employment, Orest feels these new employees are giving him back so much more.
"By hiring these people that have come from there as refugees has been an incredible gift,” Orest says.
“It really is quite incredible.”
A connection to his parents and his culture, and the opportunity to do some good in this world for people who need it the most.