By Horaci Garcia and Eva Mañez
VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters) – Every Tuesday, chef Ciriaco Vicente transforms his seaside restaurant in the Spanish city of Valencia into a dining room allowing more than a hundred Ukrainian refugees to 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.
Some 4 million Ukrainians have fled their country since the Russian invasion on February 24, according to the United Nations. About 80,000 people have come to Spain, the Minister for Migration said in an interview with La Vanguardia newspaper on Sunday.
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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.
(Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)
Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.