May 21, 2024


Food never sleeps.

Texas baker preserving Ukrainian culture through recipes collection

4 min read


AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Russian attacks on Ukraine began Feb. 24, Austin resident Olga Koutseridi was in a state of shock. An immigrant whose familial roots lie in the japanese portion of Ukraine, she invested childhood summers in Mariupol, a city besieged by Russia and the epicenter of some of the worst destruction described in the place.

For several years, Koutseridi has documented her baking capabilities on Instagram, an outlet for her homesickness and craving for common Ukrainian desserts and breads. Just after the first shock wore off, Koutseridi leaned into this exact outlet and introduced baking fundraisers in benefit of Ukraine, that includes her staple burnt Basque cheesecake.

Therefore much, she has lifted a lot more than $10,000 for humanitarian aid and relief initiatives. Proceeds lifted from June 5 by July 4 will reward the regional nonprofit Liberty Ukraine Foundation, which specializes in “fundraising for Ukrainian people, servicemen and females, very first help workers, healthcare services dealing with casualties, and victims.” The group is spearheading fundraising to acquire clinical and necessary supplies for all those on the floor in Ukraine.

Along with her fundraising efforts, Koutseridi has started amassing Ukrainian household recipes as an act of cultural preservation.

“Ukrainian culture, Ukrainian identification is getting erased — that’s portion of the war work. It’s genocide. They are trying to cleanse the earth of ‘Ukrainianness,’” she reported. “[Preserving recipes] was like an act of resistance for folks who are participating and generating these recipes in their dwelling and supplying a daily life to this lifestyle outside of the areas that now have been occupied.”

To date, Koutseridi has gathered practically 100 recipes in different phases of completeness. While some have supported her initiatives, she explained other folks have pointed to unique areas wherever awareness really should be targeted.

Koutseridi credited her pal and Ukrainian chef Olia Hercules for her operate documenting regional Ukrainian cuisines through her cookbooks. Hercules’ collections cover significantly of the western parts of Ukraine, and Koutseridi claimed her hope is that her individual do the job can hone in on the eastern locations her spouse and children has known as house.

Even though the war in Ukraine is the most recent in a slew of Russian transgressions from the state, Koutseridi reported Ukrainian ethnic communities have been beneath threat for decades, courting again to the Soviet period. This genocide isn’t new, but instead a more current manifestation of these same makes an attempt at a higher caliber, Koutseridi said.

As an immigrant seeing the devastation from abroad, she reported it will come with a exclusive and emotionally taxing vantage stage.

“I tried out to bury myself in function and exclusively fundraising initiatives just as a way to cope and to feel practical and valuable, since in any other case I felt entirely powerless,” she reported. “I also come to feel a ton of immigrant guilt in several strategies. It’s variety of a advanced subject matter, but I also truly feel like, I was able to get out.”

Whilst Koutseridi mentioned she left Ukraine prior to war broke out, she explained she felt compelled to discover ways to the two help and battle for her metropolis of Mariupol and her persons. Members of her household, which include her grandmother, an aunt and cousins, fled a thirty day period soon after the assaults commenced.

She explained she respects some people’s hesitancy with the job, specifically for individuals in lively war zones or people who not long ago escaped. She also mentioned the have to have for other spots of cultural preservation, including linguistic protections for minority ethnic communities, this kind of as her grandparents’ Ukrainian Greek villages.

In this article in Austin, she commended the outpouring support from Texans who rallied and donated to Ukrainian preservation initiatives. She observed the Facebook team “Austin TX Ukrainians” has been a profound resource for individuals not only looking to assist Ukraine donation attempts, but to obtain a feeling of community here in Austin.

As a qualified cultural historian, she claimed there’s price in guaranteeing the day to day elements of Ukrainian society — songs, art, food stuff and language, amongst others — are guarded. But as an immigrant and a baker, she mentioned foods has generally been a source of ease and comfort and an psychological link to her homeland and her people. Her hope is this assortment of recipes invokes people same sentiments for other individuals.

“Ultimately, the task is to maintain the society and for people today to make these recipes to present that you just can’t erase Ukrainian tradition,” she explained. “And for me, that is just since foods is type of what I are living and breathe.”


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