Chefs and food writers Anna Jones and Melissa Hemsley are among those who helped Ukraine-born UK chef Olia Hercules raise over £70k to support Ukrainian citizens fighting the Russian invasion to their country .
Hercules, who is from Ukraine and has written three books on cuisine from the country, posted an heartfelt video on social media calling for support for Ukraine as the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his intention to go to war.
“I am a pacifist, and before if there was ever a choice in my life of not giving money for fighting but for hospitals I would do it. But right now, if we don’t help those Kyiv people to defend themselves it’s going be a complete humanitarian disaster,” she said in a post on Instagram.
Russian chef Alissa Timoshkina was one of the first to add her support, sharing a photo of herself with Hercules and writing: “I’ve had the joy of cooking and sharing meals with my dear friend Olia Hercules so many times! And now cooking for Ukraine, for peace, for freedom, for truth, for common sense, for rational thought, for love, is more important than ever!”
After subsequent posts shared by Jones and Hemsley, among many others across the food community, the fundraiser raised over £70k over the weekend to go towards protective clothing and helmets for citizens in Ukraine.
Hercules revealed her brother is one of those fighting in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where men aged between 18-60 have been forbidden from leaving and instead asked to take up arms to defend their country.
Having met their first target, Hercules said she is now setting up a new charity ‘Cook for Ukraine’, along with Timoshkina and two other partners, and taking inspiration from the Cook for Syria campaign, to raise awareness and funds. While the charity is established, further funds are being collected via a Just Giving page.
Meanwhile others are using the hashtag #CookforUkraine on social media to cook and post pictures of Ukrainian food in solidarity.
In another post, Hercules said: “Putin is not making history, we are making history. This is now my mission. I feel like my whole life, my family’s suffering and everything we’ve been through, I’ve been moving towards this. To launch this thing to help Ukraine, and I’m going to keep going.”
She thanked everyone who had donated and offered messages of support, adding that: “Instagram is supposed to be about beautiful pictures of food. And I know it’s intense, but I’m just eternally grateful to you all.”
It comes as other celebrities including from sport and film have joined international condemnation of Putin’s war in Ukraine, including Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko, Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev and Russian singer Regina Spektor.
For more details about Cook for Ukraine or to donate, click here.