In Other News

By James Buckley   |   December 17, 2020

I’ve often extolled Mollie Ahlstrand’s food. She’s the owner/chef of Mollie’s on State, formerly Mollie’s Ristorante on Coast Village Road. In recent months, she has had her challenges. Upon closing her Coast Village Road eatery (after a 25-year run), for example, she and her son, Ali Ahlstrand, opened Mollie’s on State. Then, of course, the pandemic struck and they were forced to close the new place after spending a great deal of money on an upgrade and re-design of the premises. 

Along with most other Santa Barbara restaurateurs fortunate enough to have outdoor space, they added heaters and a fenced-off area on State Street when she could no longer serve diners inside and business slowly improved. Now, of course, in the face of this most recent lockdown, she can’t serve anything anywhere and is back to strictly take-out only.

To add to her troubles, Mollie got into a nearly fatal automobile accident a couple months ago, when she, by most accounts, apparently blacked out at the wheel (she’s not really sure exactly what happened). She was severely injured and spent a month in Cottage Hospital and has been recuperating for the past few months at a private home here in Montecito. Mollie is finally out of a wheelchair, has ditched the walker, and gets around – very slowly – with a cane. That she survived at all seems a near miracle and she proudly carries an iPhone CT scan of the various bolts and metal stakes now a permanent fixture in her nearly broken body.

In the meantime, her country of birth – Ethiopia (a country of 115 million people) – has slipped into conflict between rebels and the forces of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Because of the fighting, nearly 50,000 Ethiopians have fled across rivers and desert areas to Sudan, a two-week trek, mostly on foot. Mollie’s family still live in Ethiopia, and she worries for their safety and for the safety of all the people now living in refugee camps in Sudan, who were until this uprising, residents of the modern and successful city of Mekelle, in Tigray province. 

Sources in the area report that after a clamor from aid agencies, the Abiy government and the United Nations have agreed to allow humanitarian aid into areas of Tigray. Some 600,000 people relied on food handouts even before the fighting. Food stocks are nearly empty for 96,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray, aid agencies say, while medics in Mekelle are short of painkillers, gloves, and body bags.

Norwegian Refugee Council head Jan Egeland reports that there’s an acute shortage of food, medicine, and other relief, and added that relief convoys were ready to go.

“I would beg the world to stop this war,” Mollie pleads, suggesting that many people may not have even heard about this looming disaster because so much attention has been given to our recent election. She fears the situation could turn into another 1994-type Rwandan disaster (in which up to 800,000 men, women, and children were attacked and killed in a tribal bloodbath) if not ended soon. She asks that residents of Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria be part of that relief effort by donating to local nonprofits such as Direct Relief International, Surgical Eye Expeditions, United Way, and other such agencies.

If this is something readers might consider but don’t know exactly which nonprofit to donate to, a complete list of all Santa Barbara area charities is available in the back pages of The Giving List. If you don’t have a copy, they are available free of charge at 1206 Coast Village Circle.

Merry Christmas! 


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