A popular restaurant in Etobicoke that was raising money for humanitarian aid in war-torn Ukraine says more than $2,000 in donations were stolen.
“We didn’t think this would happen. We didn’t think about tying the boxes to the table or mounting them or anything because we didn’t think people would actually do that,” Tetyana Barylko told CTV News Toronto on Friday morning.
Barylko and his family are originally from the Ukraine and own Barrel House Korchma, a Ukrainian restaurant that just celebrated its first anniversary.
The Mimico restaurant has become a hit among Etobicoke’s large but tight-knit Ukrainian community at the time, and as Barylko explained, their fundraising efforts have been well received.
“Our clients are very generous when it comes to donations,” he said.
But things took a turn on Thursday around 11:30 am. That’s when Barylko said a man walked into the store and asked to buy takeout containers. The only server working at the time processed the transaction and went to the kitchen to get the items.
When the waiter returned, the man was nowhere in sight and neither were the donation boxes.
In surveillance video provided to CTV News Toronto, the unidentified man appears to place one of the filled donation boxes in his bag when the employee is not in sight. As he prepares to leave the restaurant with donations in hand, he appears to turn around and grab another box full of donations.
“It feels disgusting,” Barylko said after watching the video. “Who would take money meant to be a donation to people in Ukraine for humanitarian aid, like children who have lost their parents in the war?”
After consulting with his parents, Barylko estimates that more than $2,000 in cash donations were stolen.
Toronto police confirmed to CTV News Toronto that they received a report related to the robbery, but have not yet assigned an investigator to the case.
The war in Ukraine has been raging since February 24, after Russia invaded the country after years of aggression.
Barylko and his family have been outspoken in their support of their native country from the start. Barylko’s father used to serve in the Ukrainian military and has used his existing connections to provide supplies and humanitarian aid directly to the people who need it most.
However, his support for Ukraine has not been without problems. In addition to the alleged theft, Barylko said the Ukrainian flags flying outside his establishment have been ripped down at least twice, a fact that unfortunately is not unique to the Mimico restaurant.
“It feels like we’re constantly pushed away from helping,” Barylko said.
Despite that, and while the family waits for an investigation into the theft to be launched, Barylko insists the incident will not stop her and her family from supporting their homeland.
“It’s not going to make us stop. We will continue to collect donations. It will not silence us. This will only make us stronger,” she said.