A restaurant chef from Kyiv has organized meals for a thousand people, as her grandmother did during the Second World War

A restaurant chef from Kyiv has organized meals for a thousand people, as her grandmother did during the Second World War

She is repeating the fate of her grandmother – the volunteer-chef Victoria Parhomenko remains in Kyiv since the first day of the war and each day provides food for one and a half thousand soldiers of the Armed Forces and Teroborona, as well as elderly residents of Kyiv.

When the Second World War ended, her grandmother was 17 years old. Olena Gnativna Parhomenko, for the entire duration of the German occupation of the Kyiv region, did her best to feed children and her neighbours. TSN recounts the history which repeated itself 77 years later.

The well-known chef has opened close to thirty establishments over the world. Today, she could have moved to any country, but from the first days of the war, Victoria decided that she would not leave her dear Kyiv. “Either I will be scared here, or I will be doing nothing across the border – I cannot do that, it’s not my way”, - she assures.

To bring Ukraine’s victory closer, the woman converted her restaurant to a volunteer kitchen. Now, every day, Victoria and her team provide meals for the soldiers of Armed Forces, fighters of the Teroborona, the military administration and the elderly who remain in Kyiv without support. “Around one and a half thousand people, we started doing this as a team of three. Then a friend joined us, then another, and now there’s five of us”, - recounts the woman.

It so happened that only now does Victoria realise how her life intersected with her grandmother’s.  Olena Gnativna Parhomenko died at 93 years of age. During the Second World War, she too provided meals to those who needed them in Kyiv.

“She recounted how she fed the neighbours’ children with soup in jars when the hunger started”, - the woman tells her grandmother’s story.

Since September 1941, Kyiv survived 778 days under the German occupation. Food was being traded for clothes and even valuables. Over 400 thousand people of Kyiv became hostages in their own city. Victoria’s grandmother told her, that the Nazis begun their governance of Kyiv by renaming the streets. The Germans claimed the best apartments in the city centre, particularly in the modern Velyka Zhytomyrska street, where Victoria’s restaurant is now located. The Germans tried twice to deport her grandmother to Germany for compulsory labour. “She was 17 years old. Twice they took her away by train, and both times she jumped off and returned home”, - says the chef.

At night, she walked hundreds of kilometres, hid, and returned to the house of her relatives in a village by Kyiv. During the war, nine children and their families survived in that house.

“The most terrifying moments were when they hid in hay piles. The Germans stabbed the piles with bayonets, to kill anyone if they were hiding. She covered the mouths of her younger siblings, so they wouldn’t scream from fear”, - the woman recounts her grandmother’s stories.

War will not break Olena Gnativna, says Victoria. The only thing which will remain after the second world war would be the desire to make sure that anyone Mrs. Olena came across had enough food to eat. When she made borsch, she made at least 10 litres; when she was making holodets, she did it in the largest pan available. Victoria uses some recipes from her grandmother in her gastronomical experiments. “We gave golubtsi with duck meat with white sauce, in honour of my grandmother”, - Victoria points out.

While Victoria prepares suppers for the soldiers, she remembers -on victory day, her grandmother’s house was full of guests. She prepared great feasts and repeated – “the most important thing is for the war to never repeat”. But 77 years later, Victoria the chef is providing meals to the troops on the 74th day of the Russia-Ukraine war. She dreams about the day on which she will be able to prepare a celebratory feast, invite all of the soldiers she had befriended during the fighting in Gostomel, Bucha and Irpin. Now, they are fighting in the east, and Victoria waits for them to return with victory.

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