Odyssey from Odesa: Costa Brava welcomes Ukrainian refugees

Half of staff at one L'Estartit hotel are from Ukraine while over 1,500 refugees have come to Lloret de Mar

Refugees Anastasia Tkacmova and Olga Rostan with translator Yulia Kruglyak in Lloret de Mar
Refugees Anastasia Tkacmova and Olga Rostan with translator Yulia Kruglyak in Lloret de Mar / Aleix Freixas

ACN | @agenciaacn | Lloret de Mar/L'Estartit

February 14, 2023 05:35 PM

February 14, 2023 05:40 PM

It's a long way from Kyiv to the Costa Brava, over 2,000 km in fact, but for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war in their home country, the tourist hotspot on the Mediterranean has become a home away from home. 

Lloret de Mar, which styles itself as the capital of the Costa Brava, has registered 1,532 Ukrainian refugees since Russia's invasion began almost one year ago. 

The seaside town is now home to 2,379 Ukrainian nationals, making it one of the largest Ukrainian communities in Catalonia, with 424 Ukrainian children attending school in the town. 

And while the numbers of refugees arriving were greatest in the first months of the war, the council says that there are still around 40 Ukrainians coming to Lloret every month. 

Odyssey from Odesa 

Anastasia Tkacmova lived in Ukraine one year ago, running a family business in Odesa, with several properties and cars to her name.  

The outbreak of war, however, forced her to leave everything behind and look for a place to "start from scratch." 

After traveling through various cities across Europe, Anastasia arrived in Lloret de Mar, where some friends were living. 

They took her and her family in and helped them find an apartment and a job, neither of which was easy: landlords would not rent to them as they feared they would become squatters, while work was hard to come by in low season. 

She eventually did get a job and an apartment, where she now lives with her parents and children, and has only words of thanks for the local council and the Catalan and Spanish authorities. 

But Anastasia does want to return to Ukraine as soon as she can. "I want to rebuild my country again," she says. 

Life and work at Hotel Flamingo 

70km north along the Costa Brava coast from Lloret de Mar lies the small town of L'Estartit. There the Hotel Flamingo has been accommodating Ukrainian refugees for almost a year. 

The first arrivals came in March and there are currently 120 living there, spread over 60 of the hotel's 90 rooms. 

Since last summer, the hotel has also offered work some of those staying, eight in total, a number that represents more than half of the staff working there. 

Hotel owner Miquel Basieras says it has been "great, because it's not easy to find staff."  

"They want to work, they have a good attitude and they work hard," he adds. 

Anna Vykhovanets used to run a clothing store in Ukraine and is one of the refugees now working in the hotel. "I'm not working in the area I used to, but for my mind it's better to work, not sit and think about all the bad things in the world." 

Hotel Flamingo, in l'Estartit, Costa Brava, has been welcoming Ukrainian refugees for over a year. Around 120 people who fled the war live there, 8 of whom work there too.

Another of the Ukrainian staff members, Tatiana Hulevets, says "many Ukrainians are talented and intelligent" but "the language is a barrier when it comes to finding work."  

In Ukraine, she worked in a hospital as an assistant director, doing accounting. Now, she's working as a waitress. 

It's not a job she wants to be doing, but she says she's glad she found it because "it's very difficult to live only on the money from the Red Cross program; there are other expenses than just food and accommodation." 

Her colleague and compatriot Olean Kol is also happy to be working. "I feel like I’m alive, I feel I have a future, I can give more to my children," she says.