Ukrainian refugees prepare for a storm at a Czech campsite – Channels Television

Ukrainian refugee Inna Ilinskaya prepares a traditional Ukrainian Bograch goulash in the camp in the village of Revnice on March 18, 2022, 35 km near Prague. Michal Cizek / AFP

A steaming pot of thick soup bubbles at a campsite-turned-refugee shelter near Prague where Ukrainian women who fled the Russian invasion prepare delicious meals for curious locals.

There are now traditional Ukrainian dishes, including borscht, a beet-based soup with cabbage, on the menu at the restaurant in Revnice, southwest of Prague.

“We want to tell the story of our cuisine, so we prepare and offer our Ukrainian cuisine,” said Inna Ilinskaya, who fled the southern port city of Odessa.

Ilinskaya, a 34-year-old mother of five, left Ukraine with her husband and children shortly after the Russian invasion began on February 24.

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She found herself in Stefan Orsos’ campsite alongside some 40 other Ukrainian refugees, more than half of whom were children.

“I decided to host Ukrainian refugees after a bottle of tequila on February 24 when the war started,” said Orsos, who bought the campsite two years ago.

Today’s rate is a far cry from what it offered before the war.

The 49-year-old mainly offered Asian food, including Vietnamese pho soups until the Ukrainians arrived.

Pizza was even on the menu he ran after he could no longer hold food festivals due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We had to improvise when Covid started, we lost our jobs.”

Adaptation

“We just improvised again with this Ukrainian restaurant, which also does other dishes, but the heart is Ukrainian,” he said, as the laughter of children on bicycles filled the air.

He was happy to welcome women with no connection to the Czech Republic who found a home at the campsite.

“We also have Ukrainian Roma that nobody wants to house, and we also have sick people here,” he told AFP.

The women, including Ilinskaya, were busy making pampushki or garlic rolls, borscht soup, and bograch, which is a kind of goulash.

In the kitchen, the cooks lovingly rolled the buns and arranged them on trays before they were browned in the oven.

Ilinskaya said the restaurant has previously offered golubtsy, or stuffed cabbage leaves, and pelmeni dumplings.

They also want to make vareniki, another type of dumpling, she said, as the garden restaurant is packed with locals eager to try something new.

“Come back for sure”

Veronika Stara from Revnice relished the opportunity to visit.

“I love the idea and the borscht was just fantastic. I will definitely be back,” she told AFP.

“The ladies really seem to know what they’re doing.”

The Czech Republic, which has a population of 10.7 million, had a large Ukrainian minority before the war broke out.

It has so far hosted more than 270,000 refugees from Ukraine.

Ilinskaya expects to settle in the Czech Republic, but her heart breaks for those she left behind in Odessa, including her sister.

“I know it’s terrible there now. We managed to leave earlier so our kids don’t really see what’s going on there now,” she said.

“We are really grateful to be here.”

AFP

Karl M. Bailey