Ukrainian Bakery Under Siege Stays Open to Feed the Wounded and Elderly — Their Bravery Inspires the Whole World to Act
Bakers the world over respond to the bravery and generosity of those in the war-torn city.
Bread is a bridge, says Jon Pryzbyl, owner of Proof Bakery in Mesa, Arizona. The bridge he’s talking about spans back to 2018 when he first met Anna Makievska at the Washington State Grain Gathering.
She was a young baker from Ukraine with big dreams. They struck up a conversation and connected over Jon’s Polish roots. After the conference ended, they kept in touch. Jon wished Anna success and followed her baking adventures from across an ocean.
Those adventures took Anna from a basement bakery to a huge warehouse with towering ceilings and breathtaking windows. Her dream, a sourdough bakery called Bakehouse, was coming true. She celebrated the opening of the jaw-dropping new building with her husband and two small children.
It soon became one of the most popular bakeries in Kyiv, and Anna employed a team of 80 bakers. Upwards of 1500 people a day came to Bakehouse to buy their bread. For four months, Anna and her team were in sourdough heaven.
But the Dream Didn’t Last
And then disaster struck: Russian tanks arrived in the city. It took the sounds of an explosion, though, to wake Anna out of her dream. She reluctantly closed down her warehouse bakery whose long windows and large, open rooms made it a target for enemy troops.
The team moved back into the basement bakery—but Anna knew she had to get her family out of there.
She and her husband packed and drove to the Moldovan border. Anna told her team of bakers to leave, if they could. But at the border, Anna’s husband was refused entry. Ukrainian men had to stay in the country and fight. A heart-wrenching goodbye saw Anna’s husband return to Kyiv and Anna and their daughters continue their journey on foot.
Anna was devastated. She walked on, holding her infant daughter in one hand and encouraging her eight-year-old daughter, who struggled with a suitcase.
Anna and her daughters ended up in Portugal. Once they were safe, the first thing Anna did was to reach out to her husband and colleagues back in Ukraine. She was startled to hear that her team of bakers was still running the bakery—but, in the end, not surprised.
“When you produce food,” she said, “you don’t have a choice. You cannot just close. Where would people get food?”
Though she urged her crew to stay safe, they refused to abandon Bakehouse. They kept the basement bakery up and running, serving bread to soldiers. They took bread to local hospitals and teamed up with a network of restaurants to provide free meals for the elderly.
When the Kyiv suburb of Bucha was under siege, occupied by Russian forces who forced the town into a 33-day starvation period, Anna’s team worked overtime to make 100 more loaves for the survivors.
More Help Arrives
It was about that time that Anna received a message from Jon. He thought Anna should start a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her bakery and its efforts to feed the local population. Bakehouse had lost its main sources of revenue, and yet it was continuing to feed Ukrainians day in and day out. Its brave bakers went to work every day, fighting the starvation that was threatening to overtake the country.
Anna was currently exhausting all her options, but she still hesitated when it came to the concept of a GoFundMe campaign. The idea was unheard of in Ukraine. She wondered why people would want to help her business. But Jon was persistent. Finally, Anna gave her consent and Jon published the campaign.
To date, the campaign has raised over $200,000 to “keep BAKEHOUSE bakers employed despite the bakery losing its sources of revenue. Their work will feed many who walk through their doors. Food production is amongst the most essential activities for any community. Someone needs to make the bread regardless of the circumstances.”
Nearly 2,000 donors responded to the call to help feed Kyiv. Donations range from $5 to over $10,000, the latter mostly coming from sympathetic bakeries. Because of the outpouring of support, Anna’s bakery has been able to donate over 100,000 loaves of bread to people in need.
Bread Is for Everyone
Other bakers, inspired by the story of Bakehouse, decided to join Anna’s efforts. Some donated money directly to the GoFundMe campaign. Others, including Anna herself, contributed to a cookbook called Knead Peace that is a collection of bread recipes from the world’s best bakers.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the cookbook goes to the Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal of the Disasters Emergency Committee.
And that’s why Jon says that bread is a bridge. “It’s an incredible show of solidarity. We’re often absorbing news through mass headlines, how many people died, or what atrocity happened yesterday. But I think we all relate to the idea of needing food, especially in difficult times.”
Through phone calls and messages, and with the support of bakers from around the world and especially her dedicated team in Kiev, Anna continues to feed her people. “Bread is for everyone,” she insists.