Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is creating a humanitarian crisis on a scale unknown in Europe since World War Two. The public response here in the UK has been phenomenal, with vast numbers of people donating money and supplies and organising fundraisers.
I’m one of them. With chefs Nicola Hordern and Maria Elia and fellow writer Tessa Allingham, we’re staging a Suffolk Cooks For Ukraine feast with a charity auction on the night. It’s on March 17 at Chefs’ Whites restaurant at Suffolk New College in Ipswich, for anyone local reading this.
Every penny raised – and it’s an entirely voluntary effort – will go to the Disasters Emergency Committe’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Please come, here’s the menu and I’ll put a link to the ticket-buying page further down this piece.
We’re responding to a plea from Ukrainian food writer Olia Hercules and her Russian friend Alissa Timoshkina to #cookforukraine. Both women have been actively campaigning to raise funds for humanitarian relief. Olia’s family are still in Ukraine – her parents refused to leave and her brother is fighting with the local militia to defend his country.
Maria says: “My heart breaks as I watch the daily atrocities and heinous crimes against humanity unfold in Ukraine. I’ve tried to imagine how it would feel to have your whole existence and freedom snatched away literally overnight, while your beloved country is bombed to shreds and family torn apart.
“The courage, unity and resilience of the Ukranian people is awe-inspiring. We’ll be ‘Cooking for Ukraine’, to show our love and support by bringing people together through the power of food.”
Nicola says: “Like many I have found the situation in Ukraine extremely distressing. I have cooked and shared Russian and Ukrainian food with both Olia and Alissa and for them, and for the extraordinary work Olia is doing raising awareness for the plight of her country, I am supporting their cause in the only way I know how.”
Why am I involved? There are so many causes and so many appeals for our time and money, after all. Well, apart from the obvious, it reminds me all too horribly of the time I spent in Chechnya when I was a television reporter. The same attacks on civilian centres, the ratcheting up of bombing by exactly the same massive, well-equipped military raining hell on a smaller, comparatively poorly-armed nation. And similar, heart-breaking casualties.
I was only ever a part-time war correspondent but I covered the first Gulf War from Baghdad and Jordan, the collapse of the former Yugoslavia and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Chechnya was one of the most distressing conflicts I witnessed, from the moment I got off a bus to find a man dying at my feet after a daylight bombing raid (he’d been trying to help people injured in a nighttime attack) to the moment I left, leaving behind a civilian population trapped in the capital Grosny.
Like many people I’ve been #cookingforukraine to try to raise awareness and raise money. Our chefs will be cooking their hearts out on the 17th. Suffolk New College is hosting the event and its students will be working front and back of house on the day.
Producers like Dingley Dell Pork, Pump Street Bakery, E5 Bakehouse, Anglia Produce and Fen Farm Dairy and St Jude Cheese have donated food. Other suppliers have given free wine and beer to sell on the night. And there’s been a hugely generous response to our appeal for auction prizes. Now we need bums on seats. Please come if you can. Thank you.
Tickets here: https://forms.gle/jtsidpzEKMuDvoU69