Portland Market Hires Ukrainian Refugees

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – A Portland market specializing in Ukrainian and Slavic food is helping address the Ukrainian refugee crisis by hiring them to work in its store and cafe.

“I welcome everyone who is looking for a job,” Roman Russian Market owner Fatima Magomadova said on Friday.

“I’m here to help them,” Magomadova added.

The Southeast Portland market has been around for 20 years, according to Magomadova, who said she took it over in 2007.

Magomadova said she recently hired three Ukrainian refugees and plans to hire more soon. She also welcomes some of her new employees to her home.

For Magomadova, their fate is deeply personal; she was herself a refugee decades ago when the Soviet Union collapsed.

“I’ve been under the bombs and I know how it feels,” Magomadova said.

For some refugees who work in his store, it’s a new beginning after tragedy and horror. For others, it is a means of survival and connection to the community until they can hopefully return to Ukraine.

Valytina Gryleau, 31, is one of these refugees. She was working as a barista in the store’s cafe when FOX 12 came to talk to her.

Gryleau said she came to Portland a few months ago to visit her aunt. Due to the Russian invasion, she was unable to return home to Ukraine where her family is resisting the war in Lutsk, Ukraine.

Gryleau told FOX 12 his town was largely spared the bombings and fighting, except for military buildings and supplies, which were bombed.

FOX 12 spoke to Gryleau primarily through Magomadova’s translation.

We asked her how she experienced the separation from her parents and her four brothers.

“Not well,” translated Magomadova. “She says she is not comfortable because she is always afraid that something will happen, while she is here, something will happen there.”

His greatest wish is peace and NATO help for his country.

‘I want to shut down the skies,’ Gryleau said tearfully, referring to Ukrainian calls for NATO to declare a ‘no-fly’ zone over Ukraine, which would put the alliance in direct conflict with Russia.

Another refugee working at the store said he did just about all the market work.

Thanks to the translation, he said he had a sister who survived after her house was bombed in Kyiv. She still lives in the rubble of her basement and works in a hospital helping the injured.

He also has a classmate who died in the war and many close friends who are still fighting.

“Since the start of the war, we have only slept for three or four hours because we are constantly worried about trying to reach everyone,” he said by translation. “The morning begins with the question, are you alive?” he added.

As Magomadova helps refugees, she also receives help to do so, telling FOX 12 that the response from the local community to help her business has been incredible.

“I want to add that I am very humbled by the response from the Americans, from the city of Portland, from our community that they have come to call and ask,” Magomadova said.

Those wishing to help her in her endeavors are encouraged to visit her store to shop, dine, and buy coffee and other snacks.

The market is located at 10918 SE Division Street.

Magomadova said she was also struggling to keep her business alive, as she worried about a Portland Bureau of Transportation project that would put a median along Division Street, cutting off most access to her store.

Magomadova said she and other companies in the division were fighting the project, hoping the city would change its mind about installing the median there.

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Sandy A. Greer