Fightback: Ukrainian specialty market in Fife raises funds and hope in war with Russia

Emish Market gives Ukrainian Americans a taste of home and a place to share their worries. #k5evening

FIFE, Wash. — Outside her father’s market in Fife, 10-year-old Emily Gapon, wearing a traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirt with a flower headpiece, trades candy and popcorn for donations to help Ukrainians.

“Every dollar helps a family in Ukraine,” she said.

“You know, it’s a very difficult time,” said his father, Vladimir Gapon. “A very difficult time. Everyone feels sad.”

Gapon is co-owner of Emish Market. He emigrated here from Ukraine more than twenty years ago. Every morning, he receives news from his friends and family.

“I am from Kharkiv,” he said. “And my city is completely destroyed.”

The other day, a friend sent him pictures of the neighborhood he grew up in. On vacation a few years ago, his family posed in front of the town hall. Now, after the Russian bombardments, it is nothing more than a shell of a building.

“And my family is there,” he said. “I mean, it’s hard to explain, you know? It’s like I have goosebumps right now because it’s, you know, it’s hard.

Many Gapon employees come from Ukraine. They send money to families and they worry. Nataliya, who works in the bakery, would not reveal her last name.

She said that at work she received support from her colleagues. They talk together and they cry together. One of his colleagues from the bakery returned to Ukraine as soon as the bombardments began in order to help the refugees.

“We are fighting for freedom right now because Russia has no freedom right now,” Gapon said. “But we have freedom and we don’t want to be part of Russia.”

Outside the door, her daughter has just received a $5 donation. People see the “Help Ukraine” sign and she greets everyone who comes in and out.

“So people pass by and when people give money I’m like, ‘Just get some free popcorn and candy.’ Like why not? It’s all free,” she said.

Emish Market sweets are Ukrainian. The same goes for the traditional borscht served in the cafe. There are many items here that give Ukrainian customers a taste of home. Stefanie Bousquet showed us around.

“We have the Strawberry Cheesecake Chocolate Bars,” she said. “It’s my favorite. It’s so rich. It’s so good. So creamy.

“It’s our Kvass,” she said in the beverage aisle. “It’s very, very popular in Ukraine. It’s a type of fermented bread. To me, it tastes like non-alcoholic beer.”

“We have cold-smoked butterfly trout,” she pointed to bags of fish. “I really didn’t think I would sell it with my head on it, but you know that’s what people want, so we’re going to push it forward.”

Throughout the store, you will see signs with QR codes that will take you directly to the websites of organizations helping to feed Ukrainians. One is the Ukrainian American Coordinating Council.

The prevailing sentiment in the market is that Russia will never defeat Ukraine.

“There is no chance,” said Gapon. “Trust me. No chance.”

His daughter has raised thousands of dollars for Ukraine. She doesn’t lose hope either.

“If more Ukrainians stand up and fight for their country, I think they will definitely win,” she said.

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