East Bay restaurant owner who fled the former Yugoslavia to raise money for Ukraine – CBS San Francisco

LIVERMORE (KPIX) – Bay Area residents are finding ways to raise money for relief efforts in Ukraine. The East Bay restaurant owner is also doing what she can, as she shares a similar story of fleeing war and becoming a refugee. It’s a story she’s been reluctant to tell until now.

Most customers of the Italian restaurant Americano in Livermore know owner Vesna Kahriman. Some hear her accent and assume she’s from Italy, but she’s actually from the former Yugoslavia, which is now Montenegro.

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In 1992, when war ravaged her country, she was forced to flee with her husband and 18-month-old son. She says their escape is very much like what is happening with families in Ukraine right now.

“I can feel it. I can feel it. It’s not just for Ukraine, but for every country that goes to war,” Kahriman says.

She and her young family settled in Germany before moving to the United States and eventually to Livermore where they opened the restaurant 5 years ago. When the war started in Ukraine, she knew she had to help.

“We’ve been there and we know how big the little things can be. Huge. You have no idea,” Kahriman said, as she held back tears.

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That’s why she decided to put some of the most popular dishes on a special menu, the proceeds of which will go to humanitarian aid in Ukraine. The restaurant covers all food and labor costs.

“I think it’s amazing that someone sacrifices what they do to make a living for people so far away,” says Kathy Billiou, a longtime Americano customer.

“It’s really cool. I’ve been here all the time with her, so it doesn’t surprise me that she does something like that,” says Vicky Hambrick, who was having dinner with Billiou.

Even regulars say they never knew the story of Vesna who fled her home and came to the United States as a refugee.

“I always hid it. I don’t need my story to move me through my life. I want my story to touch other people,” Kahriman says.

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So far, the special menu for Ukraine has raised nearly $1,000, and Kahriman says she will rotate dishes each week and continue to donate until the conflict is over.

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