“I need to feel useful, that is why I have always worked”

Elmaz finds a minute to welcome us and quickly returns to the kitchen where she and her mother Avaz are busy cooking traditional Crimean Tatar dishes. A village-type house they rent in a calm neighbourhood of the city of Vinnytsia, in Western Ukraine, is full of tasty aromas. Delectable cookies appear from an oven, purchased by IOM.

“In Crimea we cooked only for ourselves, but now we will try to sell them to make our living,” says Elmaz. She moved to Crimea with her relatives in 1989 from Uzbekistan, where her family was deported in 1944. It took them quite a long time to overcome hardships there.

“We had just started getting back on our feet, and had to move again,” Elmaz’s mother Avaz sighs. The family fled Crimea and left everything behind, forced to sell their cows three times cheaper than they bought them.

As Elmaz missed their cats that they left behind with relatives, they adopted a local Vinnytsia cat and made her part of the family, a friend to Elmaz’s two children. Her boy and girl go to the same school, already the second for them in Vinnytsia, as at the first one they had troubles with other pupils. Now they are quite satisfied with their classmates and teachers.

Ridvan, Elmaz’s husband, does some interior refurbishment with another displaced Crimean and local construction workers. IOM has provided him with carpenting tools to kick-start his business.


“Over the first six months here I did not have a job, and that was very hard,” says Elmaz. “I need to feel useful, that is why I have always worked, sometimes even several jobs at once.” First, she started knitting children’s clothes and selling them at a small shop opened by a displaced woman from Donbas. Later, when IOM supported Elmaz with a fridge and an oven, she was able to start cooking traditional Crimean Tatar food herself for sale.

As Elmaz’s dishes became quite popular at local small shops, the family attended training on micro-entrepreneurship for IDPs, conducted by IOM’s local partner NGO “Spring of Hope” within a Norway-funded project. After successfully defending their business plan, Elmaz and Ridvan are going to buy a bigger oven and fridge, as well as some tables and smaller equipment to be able to expand their business and even hire some staff.

“My father was a chef, and he did not allow me to follow in his footsteps,” Elmaz tells her story. “So I studied knitting and then was a shop assistant, stock manager, and worked at a private pastry shop. But you can’t trick fate, and here I am, a chef.”

Photo by Karina Salova (c) IOM.