Olia Hercules: ‘Let’s not forget that Ukraine is not headlines, it’s people’

The Ukrainian food writer on the week that changed her life for ever, and the project she’s launched to raise funds for her besieged homelandEvery August, food writer Olia Hercules’ parents, Olga and Petro, hold an extended family gathering in their garden in Karkhovka, in the south of Ukraine, which they jokingly call the Summit. Under the branches of wisteria and wild grapes, they eat Olga’s egg noodles with duck, remember now-departed relatives, laugh, sing and cry. “There is something therapeutic about it,” Hercules says. “You’re nourishing yourself, and there’s a softness to the environment that makes talking feel easy. We don’t have a therapy tradition in Ukraine, but we do have this.”Except she doesn’t know when the Summit will happen again. When we speak seven days into “the nightmare” that is Putin’s war on Ukraine, Karkhovka is under siege. Hercules’ parents were stoic at first, she says, “but then atrocities started happening around them and our calls became shorter. I know my mum is protecting me: she doesn’t want me to see her cry.” Her brother, Sasha, is in Kyiv being trained to fight – “he is literally in his normal clothes with a gun, crawling around on the floor with no knee pads” – while her husband, Joe Woodhouse, a food photographer, is going to Essex to pick up bulletproof vests, which they will send to Ukraine via Berlin, along with ballistic combat underwear, helmets, boots and night-vision goggles; all are destined for her brother’s regiment. Until a week ago, Sasha ran an eco bike business in Kyiv; now, he is one of a group of 130 urban defenders. Continue reading…

The Ukrainian food writer on the week that changed her life for ever, and the project she’s launched to raise funds for her besieged homeland

Every August, food writer Olia Hercules’ parents, Olga and Petro, hold an extended family gathering in their garden in Karkhovka, in the south of Ukraine, which they jokingly call the Summit. Under the branches of wisteria and wild grapes, they eat Olga’s egg noodles with duck, remember now-departed relatives, laugh, sing and cry. “There is something therapeutic about it,” Hercules says. “You’re nourishing yourself, and there’s a softness to the environment that makes talking feel easy. We don’t have a therapy tradition in Ukraine, but we do have this.”

Except she doesn’t know when the Summit will happen again. When we speak seven days into “the nightmare” that is Putin’s war on Ukraine, Karkhovka is under siege. Hercules’ parents were stoic at first, she says, “but then atrocities started happening around them and our calls became shorter. I know my mum is protecting me: she doesn’t want me to see her cry.” Her brother, Sasha, is in Kyiv being trained to fight – “he is literally in his normal clothes with a gun, crawling around on the floor with no knee pads” – while her husband, Joe Woodhouse, a food photographer, is going to Essex to pick up bulletproof vests, which they will send to Ukraine via Berlin, along with ballistic combat underwear, helmets, boots and night-vision goggles; all are destined for her brother’s regiment. Until a week ago, Sasha ran an eco bike business in Kyiv; now, he is one of a group of 130 urban defenders.

Continue reading…

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