Portland market hiring Ukrainian refugees

Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 9:31 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - A Portland market specializing in Ukrainian and Slavic food is helping with the Ukrainian refugee crisis by hiring them to work at its store and coffee shop.

“I’m welcoming everyone who is looking for a job,” said Roman Russian Market owner Fatima Magomadova, on Friday.

“I am here to help them,” Magomadova added.

The market in southeast Portland has been around for 20 years, according to Magomadova, who said she took it over in 2007.

Magomadova said she recently hired three Ukrainian refugees and she has plans to soon hire more. She is also hosting a couple of her new employees at her home.

For Magomadova, their plight is deeply personal; she was a refugee herself decades ago when the Soviet Union collapsed.

“I’ve been under bombs and I know how it feels,” Magomadova said.

For some refugees working at her store, it’s a fresh start after tragedy and horror. For others, it’s a means of survival and connection to community until they can hopefully go back to Ukraine.

Valytina Gryleau, 31, is one of those refugees. She was working as a barista in the store’s coffee shop when FOX 12 came to speak with her.

Gryleau said she came to Portland a couple of months ago to visit her aunt. Because of the Russian invasion, she’s been unable to return home to Ukraine where her family is weathering the war in Lutsk, Ukraine.

Gryleau told FOX 12 that her city was mostly been spared of bombs and fighting, except for military buildings and supplies, which have been bombed.

FOX 12 spoke to Gryleau mostly through the translation of Magomadova.

We asked her how she’s been coping with the separation from her parents and four brothers.

“Not good,” Magomadova translated. “She’s saying that she not at ease because she’s always worried something is going to happen, while she is here something is going to happen there.”

Her biggest wish is for peace and for NATO help for her country.

“I want to close the sky,” Gryleau said through tears, referring to Ukrainian pleas for NATO to declare a ‘no-fly’ zone over Ukraine, something that would bring the alliance into direct conflict with Russia.

Another refugee working at the store said he does just about every job at the market.

Through translation, he said that he has a sister who survived after her house was bombed in Kyiv. She still lives in the rubble of her basement and is working in a hospital to help the wounded.

He also has a classmate who died in the war and many close friends still fighting.

“Since the war started, we only sleep three or four hours because we constantly worry trying to get ahold of everyone,” he said through translation. “The morning’s start with the question, are you alive?” he added.

While Magomadova is helping refugees, she’s also getting help to do it, telling FOX 12 that the local community’s response to help her business has been incredible.

“I want to add that very humbled by the response from Americans, from city of Portland, our community that they’ve been coming and calling and asking,” Magomadova said.

Those who wish to help her efforts are encouraged to visit her store to shop, dine and purchase coffee and other snacks.

The market is located at 10918 SE Division Street.

Magomadova said she is also fighting to keep her business alive, as she is worried about a Portland Bureau of Transportation project that would put a median along Division Street, preventing most access to her store.

Magomadova said she and other businesses along Division are fighting the project, hoping the city will change its mind about installing the median there.