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Inside a Ukrainian deli in Tucson: Disbelief and Heartbreak

Chausovskaya family owns European Market
Ukraine native Olga Chausovskaya hugs her daughter Irina inside the family's store, European Market, in Tucson.
Posted at 11:06 PM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-26 01:14:03-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Olga Chausovskaya and her family fled Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in 1991. They landed in Tucson in order to start a new life.

They brought Eastern European cuisines to the Old Pueblo, opening European Market in Midtown on Speedway Boulevard.

Now, they’re fearfully watching the Russian attacks in their home country. Dozens of their close family members are in Kyiv, in hiding.

“They cannot leave their city, because everywhere is tank and helicopter and, it’s war,” Olga said.

“We were so shocked,” Olga’s daughter Irina said of the attacks beginning this week. “It doesn’t make sense. Because Ukraine and Russia, we’re brothers and sisters.”

Irina is struck by Ukrainians’ patriotism.

“My 14-year-old cousin wants to stay and fight,” she said, holding back tears. “It’s just really beautiful to see this country just defending itself to the last breath.”

Between prayers for the violence to stop, the family is compelled to help however it can.

“Being here and being sad isn’t going to do anything,” Irina said. “So, we wanna be useful.”

“We tried to raise some money and maybe send it, but the bank [in Ukraine] is closed right now,” Olga said.

As they look for organizations providing aid on the ground in Ukraine, the community here in Tucson is rallying behind them.

“It’s actually been amazing, so many people have called," Irina said. "So many people came in. Just even to say, ‘We’re with you guys. You know, how can we help?’ So even just coming to the store and talking to my parents means so much to us.”

Irina was born in Kyiv but grew up in Tucson, and considers both to be home.

“I’ve always felt that I was Ukrainian, but Ukrainian and American," she said. "We love this country so much because it gave us a better life. And the people who support this deli have just really reaffirmed how much this is a community and how much they’re standing behind us.”