CLEVELAND — Cleveland's West Side Market is full of different vendors with diverse backgrounds and stories. At Jim's Meats, co-owner Minnie Zarefoss is sharing her background with vendors around the market and getting support for the country her family used to call home.
"My family is from Ukraine. My father, mother, and they are both deceased now," Zarefoss said. "As immigrants, they came to America with seven dollars in their pocket and my father found us all a job to work."
Zarefross and her husband Mark are among the more than 30,000 Northeast Ohioans with Ukrainian backgrounds impacted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"I am devastated over what is going on in Ukraine. If my parents were alive today, they would be in tears over all the things that are happening in this, you know, in that country, innocent people that are being killed," Zarefoss said.
Zarefoss decided to show her support for the people of Ukraine and did so at the West Side Market by crafting a small Ukrainian flag and put it on display at Jim's Meats.
The flag was quickly noticed by other vendors around the market, and while Zarefoss thought her crafted flag might get some attention, she didn't expect it to bring the market together in the way it has.
"When that vendor saw that—'oh, they have a flag'—they wanted a flag. So in the end, I've made eighty flags in the West Side Market," Zarefoss said.
Those flags are now being requested by even more vendors, with some wanting them to show their support away from the market as well.
"Some were asking for not only one two three four. You know, they want to put them in their cars," Zarefoss said.
The gesture may be small, but for Zarefoss and Northeast Ohio's Ukrainian population, it means the world.
"It is actually amazing that it doesn't matter what shape or what color, what nationality—the hub on the West Side Market, many vendors are Ukrainian here," Zarefoss said.
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