October 6, 2023
Every month, the charity Kyiv Kitchen Hub “Ants” creates and supplies meals to approximately 10,000 soldiers who have no facilities to cook. With only a mug and hot water, the soldiers can enjoy a nutritious and delicious daily diet. The charity's name "Мурашки," which translates to "Ants" in English, reflects the ethos of hard work and the extraordinary accomplishments that can be achieved through teamwork.
The Kyiv-based initiative, known as "Ants," was established by Kostyantyn and Oksana Ovcharenko on the 25th of February 2022. Kostyantyn and Oksana are originally from Luhansk region and moved with their children to Kyiv in 2019.
Kostyantyn shared his profound journey:
"The war came to us in 2014. At that time, we were residents of the Luhansk region, and we had already endured painful experience of losing our homeland, our accomodation, and our loved ones once. Somehow, we managed to persevere, ultimately finding refuge in Kyiv. When the specter of war returned, we felt compelled to actively engage in the resistance movement. In the early stages of the full-scale invasion, we extended a helping hand to both civilians and military personnel, with various urgent needs. One such endeavor was our involvement with a volunteer field kitchen. We not only joined the effort but also actively contributed to its development. However, as the frontlines shifted and the military's requirements evolved, the demand for ready-made meals dwindled, giving way to a growing need for dry rations. We recognized this shift early on, in March 2022, and committed ourselves wholeheartedly to develop and nurture this facet of our mission."
While many volunteer organisations typically distribute meals in large-serving quantities, Kyiv Kitchen Hub “Ants” takes a distinctive approach by employing individual packaging. Each package is meticulously crafted, containing a single serving of either borscht or soup, a portion of croutons to complement the flavours, and a portion of galettes. This commitment to individual packaging is driven by the foundation's exclusive focus on delivering aid to critical locations known as "zero" zones, including trenches and frontline positions.
Oksana Ovcharenko, a key figure behind “Ants” mission, underlines the significance of this approach:
"Our borscht soups are destined for areas where traditional cooking is impossible, where kitchen facilities are non-existent, and where soldiers are left with nothing more than boiling water, a mug, or a pot. With just 200 ml of boiling water, our packages provide a comprehensive daily ration, encompassing breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even a delightful dessert (nuts and dried apples)."
This innovative approach ensures that those serving on the front lines have access to nourishing, convenient and morale-boosting meals, no matter the challenging conditions they face.
With the help of 4 local kindergartens and several schools, the food parcels are personalised with letters, drawings and crafts from children. The charity also hosts classes on gingerbread painting, where children enjoy painting gingerbread airplanes, flags, bunnies and owls to be sent to soldiers on the front to remind them of home.
“We are sure that most of the soldiers after a year and a half of war can no longer look at stew and canned goods, and our products are tasty, nutritious, without chemical additives and preservatives, made carefully and with love. We want the men and women who defend us on the front lines to feel our respect, care and gratitude. The military say that the borscht is delicious… sometimes they send a video, they say: ‘It's delicious’.”
The founders not only found premises to run the organisation, but bought equipment at their own expense to start food production. They work tirelessly seven days a week, and sometimes their exhaustion is overwhelming. Oksana says:
“Of course, there is fatigue, and there is burnout... I often cry at night, because it is difficult, I want to go home, hug my parents, walk down the street where you grew up, but when guys call and say: ‘Thank you!’ what is tiredness!? Or when you read a post that the person you were talking to returned with a shield... We don't have the same fatigue as our guys at ground zero, when shells are flying nearby. We cannot fold our hands here. We will win. Of course."
With the support of local businesses and a team of volunteers, food production operates seamlessly. The products reach the front either through volunteers or through soldiers on their way to combat positions.
Kostyantyn and Oksana’s dedication has attracted support from local residents, who not only bring fresh produce from their gardens but volunteer their time in the kitchen regardless of age or health difficulties. Oksana says:
“When they call me, I always ask: can you work standing up? How do you feel? Because I can’t see age or condition on the phone. We have a woman (she has an artificial valve in her heart), and when the weather is hot, she says: I'm so ashamed, but I can't come... I say: autumn is coming soon, we're waiting for you!"
The Kitchen Hub provides a community and companionship in challenging times for refugees: volunteer Kiyanka Lyubov Stupula says:
“There are those who, at such a difficult time for the country, feel psychologically easier when they come here - they chat, find new acquaintances, we have a lot of people here who are united and became friends. We work, we get tired, but we know why and for whom we do it."
Kyiv Kitchen Hub “Ants” operates tirelessly, with dedicated volunteers working seven days a week to bake, dry, cook, cut, and pack dry rations without compensation. On a monthly basis, they produce and distribute 10,000 servings of both first and second courses, along with breakfast cereals and 10,000 servings of galettes.
This is why Oksana and Kostyantyn need 15-20 people every day to operate the Kitchen Hub, and enquiries from international volunteers are very welcome. You can read more about how to join volunteering at Kyiv Kitchen Hub “Ants” on our volunteer opportunities page.
You can support Kyiv Kitchen Hub “Ants” via PayPal: Ovcharenko.Konstantin.N@gmail.com
In closing, we want to convey a heartfelt message that echoes the spirit of this organization, Kyiv Kitchen Hub "Ants." As they beautifully express,
"We are a group of passionate volunteers who believe in the power of unity, as expressed by our motto: 'Together we are strong!'"
We don't just say this; we live it. Every individual's contribution is not just valued; it's cherished, for we understand the profound strength that arises from our collective efforts.
Our mission is simple yet profound: to protect, restore, and develop Ukraine, all while extending our love and care to its people, animals, and the environment.
Together, we can roll up our sleeves and work collectively to achieve our shared goals, forging a brighter future for Ukraine and its communities.”
So If this mission resonates with your heart, we sincerely invite you to become part of their dedicated team.
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