As the war in Ukraine rages on, we who don’t live there watch each terrible development from afar, while experiencing the immense privilege that that distance affords us. It’s easy to max out on the awful things that humans can inflict on other humans, and take refuge in our friends, families, media, hobbies, and media, all far away from the bloodshed. While that impulse is very human, it’s just as human (as Mr. Rogers once put it so eloquently!) to try to help.
That’s what Fuminori Tsuchiko has done, in his own unique way. The 75-year-old Japanese man has opened a cafe in the Ukrainian city of Kharkhiv. There, he gives out free food to residents trying to snatch a bit of normalcy amid the upheaval. The snacks and meals he serves are nourishing not just because of the usual calories and vitamins, but, as the food is all sourced by donation, it represents the goodwill of donors around the world!
“For months, he said, he lived in a metro station and worked as a volunteer distributing food in the subway.[…]
‘June, July, August, September, October, November, December—(for) seven months I stayed in the metro, underground, sleeping or eating, and together (with) many, many Ukrainian people,’ Tsuchiko said.
FuMi Caffe serves about 500 people a day, he said.
Tsuchiko said he had been visiting Ukraine as a tourist in February 2022, when the Japanese embassy urged him to leave as Russia prepared to invade. He went to the Polish capital Warsaw but said he returned two months later.”
The amount of courage it takes to remain in a war zone to help others when your own country tries to get you to leave is staggering. But I can only imagine the extra bravery required if you’re a senior! And Mr. Tsuchiko doesn’t seem to be planning on leaving, as long as he’s needed. While I’m glad he’s there, I fervently hope that the war in Ukraine ends as soon as possible, for everyone involved—including the kind-hearted volunteer doing his bit supporting a shattered community, by invoking the comforting power of food.