Ukrainian tourist Viktoria Makarenko and her daughter light incense every evening at a temple in a Sri Lankan beach resort to pray for a return home as the sun dips below the Indian Ocean waves.

Russia’s February invasion of the 35-year-old’s homeland has left thousands of foreign travellers from the two countries stranded on the tropical island.

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But Ukrainians with empty wallets, distraught over the fate of loved ones back home, say they have been overwhelmed by support from locals — despite their own travails in the face of a worsening financial crisis.

Speaking to news agency AFP, Makarenko said, “I love Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan people.” “Everybody wants to help us.”

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It is reported that Makarenko, her husband and their five-year-old daughter had been travelling around Sri Lanka for weeks when Russian forces invaded Ukraine.

They were running low on cash and despairing of their predicament before locals in the resort town of Unawatuna rallied around them, offering free accommodation, food and even incense sticks to light on their daily trips to the shrine.

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“The owner of this hotel let us stay here as long as we need. We have food, water, we don’t have a headache (over) what to eat tomorrow,” Makarenko said.

“We stay safe here and they take care of us.”

Along the white sands of Sri Lanka’s southern coastline, dozens of tourist-oriented businesses are advertising offers or assistance for stranded Ukrainians.

Ahesh Shanaka, the manager of the Blackgold cafe in Mirissa, said he asked one Ukrainian customer carrying a baby whether she was returning home.

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“She said, ‘I cannot go back, my house was destroyed, where can I go?'”

A sign outside offers half-price meals upon presentation of a Ukrainian passport, and nearby guest houses have given empty rooms to small cohorts of backpackers from the country.

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Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is also suffering from hardships and the economic crisis has hit bad for business. Long queues for petrol and electricity blackouts are threatening to upend operators and bring a budding post-pandemic tourism revival to an abrupt end.