Opinion: In every Ukrainian kitchen, a secret weapon against Putin

Editor’s Note: Oleksandra Gaidai is Head of Academic Programs at the Ukrainian Institute. She is also a history lecturer at Ukraine’s National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Kristina Hook is a Ukraine-Russia specialist and Assistant Professor of Conflict Management at Kennesaw State University’s School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development. She is a former Fulbright scholar to Ukraine. The views expressed in this commentary are their own. Read more opinions on CNN.


After long days working in offices dotting Kyiv’s downtown, a small group of women head to their kitchens. Their evening job is just beginning.

Co-authors Oleksandra Gaidai and Kristina Hook.

Before the night is over, platters of meatballs, fish, traditional salads, cabbage rolls, homemade apple cakes and poppy seed pastries will overflow from the countertops.

As Christmas approaches, seasonal treats like “kutia,” a sweet wheat-based porridge, will appear – one of the 12 dishes traditionally found on every Ukrainian table.

But these nightly banquets are part of a special mission. They are being lovingly prepared for wounded soldiers in Kyiv’s military hospital.

As Russia’s continued bombardment of Ukrainian cities prevents relatives from visiting wounded loved ones, homemade meals from strangers are weaving new surrogate family ties.

This will be Ukraine’s first Christmas since Russia’s full-on invasion in February. And in those intervening months, Moscow has weaponized food against Ukrainians, reviving a dark historical tradition that goes back at least a century.

The targets, across Ukraine, have been many. Citizens have been shot while waiting in breadlines in Chernihiv. A water truck was struck

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