24 FOR 24

Day 17

Cafe Ukraine shouldn’t need to exist.

“It’s hard living without my husband right now. But people all around me are opening their hearts. I’m a happy Berlin girl. For now.” Olena Nominas became a “Berlin girl” in March of 2022, making the gut-wrenching decision to take her daughter and become a war refugee in Germany as bombs fell around the home she had grown to love. But what choice did she have, considering the atrocities that might befall Ukrainian women in a Russian-occupied city in a time of war.

While the world rallied to ensure the basic needs of millions of Ukrainian war refugees were met, keeping their cultures and traditions intact was not the focus of more traditional “aid-oriented” organizations. Ana Lichtwer, a project developer for Berliner Stadtmission, changed that quickly.

“I asked refugees from Syria who came in 2015 what resources they would have wanted when they first came,” Ana said. “What they told me I did. They told me to find a place and give the people the possibility to feel at home through their culture.” In a country where the Ukrainian culture is not as easily accessible, Café Ukraine makes continuing its traditions just a little easier.

Today’s #24for24 celebrates Ana, Olena, and the growth, persistence and spirit of connection of Café Ukraine.