Uzhhorod — A small building on the roadside with a sign “craft coffee shop” is a spot full of symbolism, representing the resilience of Ukrainians. Its owner, Mariana, the wife of a fallen veteran, is carrying on her husband's work, finding the energy to enjoy life anew and to inspire others with her example.
“This place is not about business; it is a meeting place for friends. We didn't want to go to other cafes; we dreamed of having a coffee machine and one or two tables so that people could stop by, chat and enjoy a good cup of coffee,” explains Mariana.
Mariana, a mother of two sons and a former pharmacist, learned about coffee through her husband, Ivan. He was involved in roasting and selling coffee while she created gift sets. In 2019, the couple bought an old bank building, and Ivan renovated it, realising they were ready for something bigger. But a full-scale war changed the family's plans: Ivan, having gained experience in 2014, defended Ukraine again. He fought his last battle liberating villages in the Kherson region in August 2022. Mariana's mental health suffered greatly from the loss of her husband, putting all plans on hold.
“There was a time when I just wanted to be silent. I thought, how can I work if I just want to be silent?” she recalls.
But the desire to fulfill the dream she shared with her husband eventually won out. Mariana gradually started to build the cafe while keeping many symbolic elements — from Ivan's coffee machine to the name “Na Koshitskii,” which was what her husband would say. She also completed barista courses to master the profession. Before the anniversary of Ivan's death, Mariana opened the doors of the new coffee shop in Uzhhorod.
“The first day we opened was scary; my hands were always shaking. I was so focused on making coffee that I sometimes forgot basic etiquette. Luckily, my friends supported me and constantly advised me on how to improve the service,” Mariana shares. Working in the coffee shop has brought back my lost senses.
“This place is my source of strength and fills me with energy. Coffee is my favorite thing, thanks to my husband. Of course, I didn't imagine everything this way and I would have never thoughtthat I would have to do everything myself. But interesting people come here every day, and we talk about everything. And when they come back for another cup of coffee, it's true happiness for me.”
After losing her husband and enduring the hardships of war, Mariana sought a supportive community, leading her to IOM's veteran retreats tailored to address the mental health needs of veterans and their families. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) supports the veteran community by implementing the “Path of Resilience” project in Ukraine, funded by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, reaching over 47,000 Ukrainians to provide access to mental health and psychosocial support and addressing stigma related to mental health.
Written by Daria Dovzhenko, IOM Ukraine.