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A Spanish chef prepares a paella on the beach for Ukrainian refugees

VALENCIA, Spain, March 30 (Reuters) – Every Tuesday, chef Ciriaco Vicente transforms his seaside restaurant in the Spanish city of Valencia into a dining room where more than a hundred Ukrainian refugees can enjoy a hearty free lunch.

“They’ve got nothing left,” said Vicente, 47, as his waiters handed out generous helpings of steaming yellow rice sprinkled with chunks of chicken and succulent little snails.

“We’re here to give them some love and affection through fine dining,” he said.

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Some 4 million Ukrainians have fled their country since the Russian invasion on February 24, according to the United Nations. Around 80,000 people have come to Spain, the migration minister said in an interview with La Vanguardia newspaper on Sunday. Read more

The dining room at Las Torres de Ciriaco was filled with the happy chatter of families enjoying their food, but the memories of the hardships they faced are never far away.

“It’s a difficult situation all over Ukraine,” said Alina Zahizoeta, 28, who ran a branch of sporting goods store Intersport in Kyiv.

After an arduous five-day journey to Ukraine’s border with Hungary, she and her family finally arrived in Spain.

In addition to providing food, Vicente’s restaurant has become a meeting place where Ukrainians swap stories and ask for help with paperwork.

“People are very supportive,” said Bohdan Turinska, 24, an English teacher in Kyiv.

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Written by Nathan Allen Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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