SAN ANTONIO – In many parts of Ukraine, all you can see is destruction.
However, when you walk into the new European Dumplings Cafe in Castle Hills, the first thing you see is a true depiction of Ukraine’s beauty. It’s a huge painted wall with yellow wheat and sunflowers at the bottom and a blue sky above.
“This is represents the Ukrainian flag. The yellow, it means wheat, the Ukrainian export that feeds the world all the way to Asia and Africa, everywhere. The blue means the sky. This is make me proud about my country. I hope it will be back again soon. Clear, beautiful. It will be even better than before,” said Olga Veretelnik.
Veretelnik grew up in Ukraine, moving to Oregon in 1993 and then to San Antonio a year and a half ago with her husband Simon Gutierrez.
Luckily when the war started, her mother and niece were coincidentally visiting her in San Antonio and never went back.
However, she still has many family and friends in Ukraine.
“We’re from Bakhmut. They lost all their houses. I mean, everything. They’re moving from place to place,’ she said.
Veretelnik and Gutierrez are now sponsoring seven Ukrainians, bringing them to San Antonio. They’ve brought four people in already, and the other three should get out soon, including a family friend who was badly injured in the war.
“He is hurt, and he can’t fight anymore. He’s going to be here in a few weeks,” Gutierrez said.
The couple has fundraised many times for those stuck in Ukraine and for Ukrainian refugees now in America.
A year ago, they opened a small food truck selling Ukrainian food. They would often donate a chunk of their proceeds to local organizations, including Ukrainian San Antonio and the Ukrainian Society of San Antonio.
Saturday, the community was able to give back to the couple when they opened the first brick-and-mortar Ukrainian restaurant in San Antonio.
“There were 300 people here! A tremendous amount of people showed up, not only Ukrainians but Latinos, Caucasian, Black, Asian, Muslim - they were all here supporting us. We welcome everybody. We ran out of food,” Gutierrez said.
It’s clear that food is a universal language, and they are proud to be sharing their culture with the melting pot that is San Antonio.
Veretelnik, her mother, son, and friends from Ukraine crowded the kitchen making traditional bortsch and dumplings from scratch.
“This is a traditional Ukrainian borscht. When I was like a little girl, we was eating borsch every day,” Veretelnik said proudly.
The quality of the food speaks for itself. On day three of opening, customers were already coming back second and third times.
“I have a goosebump!” Veretelnik said with a smile.
The love and support from San Antonio give her a true sense of hope for the people and land she loves so much.
The European Dumplings Cafe is located at 2211 NW Military Highway, Suite #131B, in Castle Hills.
Doors are now officially open every Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.