Testimonials from Ukraine

"We prepare hot dishes and deliver them in the neighbourhoods where there is no gas and electricity"

Before the war Oleksii Aleksandrov was one of the partners of an ILO-supported training programme for chefs de cuisine in Kherson. After the outbreak of the war, he joined other professionals preparing warm meals for people without gas or electricity, and for families fleeing from regions under military attacks. The ILO provided financial support for this local humanitarian aid programme with the funding coming from the Government of Denmark.

Article | 23 February 2023
Oleksii Aleksandrov, Director of Foodiebox, co-founder of the NGO Chef's Club, Kherson - © ILO
“I arrived in Kherson in the afternoon on February 24 to evacuate my family to Boryspil, where I worked for that period, but it didn’t happen as planned. The heavy shooting at the Kherson airport and Chornobaivka started, cutting the safe evacuation along the Kherson-Mykolayiv highway.

The next day, on February 25, we met with the other chefs. We have been working together over the last few years and we prepared our first 20 portions of hot meals for medics who could not reach their home in the suburbs of Kherson. Afterwards, with every day the volumes were increasing – 100, 200, 300 portions and more.

In the first months we covered mostly the regional hospital and the city clinical hospital with patients and also 3 ambulance stations. Later we began to prepare meals for the first groups of people fleeing from Antonivka and Chernobaivka, who had to move to Kherson as they had lost their homes.

On May 2, I managed to evacuate my family to Boryspil, where I continued my work. Back in April, I remotely launched the production of hot meals (sterilized dishes in vacuum bag), and from May continued the coordination of the process on the spot. These hot dishes are very convenient to use, and they have a long shelf life. We send them to the hotspots of Zaporizhzhya, Mykolayiv, Kherson regions –these regions are heavily affected by the war. We help as we can. Almost all cooks and all restaurants help, as well as the entire Ukraine, so we are not that unique.

Now I live in two cities, every two weeks I come to Kherson to help my team with the purchasing and to solve technical issues. After the liberation of Kherson region, we continued our work there. Kherson is still a hotspot for fighting, there is almost non-stop shelling, and many citizens simply do not have the possibilities to cook for themselves. We prepare hot dishes and deliver them in the neighbourhoods where there is no gas and electricity. The guys work in helmets and armour because it is dangerous, but they do not stop. There was a forced pause only once, for two weeks around the New Year, when the shelling was too crazy."