A 75-year-old Japanese man has opened a free cafe in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv to help those affected by Russia’s invasion.
Fuminori Tsuchiko, who arrived in the city last year, said he felt deeply concerned about the situation of the residents seeking shelter in subway stations to evade Russian shelling.
Tsuchiko was visiting Ukraine as a tourist in February 2022 when the news of Russia preparing to invade the country broke out.
When the Japanese embassy told him to leave the country, he traveled to Warsaw, Poland. Two months later, he returned to Ukraine and decided to stay in a metro station.
“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 was quoted as saying.
After spending months distributing food in the subway as a volunteer, he teamed up with a Ukrainian friend he met at the station to plan a better way to help the affected residents.
Using donations from Japanese people via social media, he was able to open “FuMi Caffe” in Kharkiv’s Saltivka neighborhood with the help of his Ukrainian friend.
The cafe, which now serves about 500 people a day, has already gained the attention of locals, including Anna Tovstopyatova, who visited to make a donation.
She shared her admiration for Tsuchiko’s efforts, saying, “It’s great that there are sincere people with an open heart and soul, who sacrifice their life and time to help and give hope.”
While Ukrainian forces have pushed Russian troops back towards the border, local communities and volunteers still face extreme risk due to frequent shelling and unexploded ordinance in the city.