As Ukrainians around the country gathered glass bottles for Molotov cocktails and armed themselves against the Russian onslaught, Pavlo Servetnyk headed for the kitchen.
For the past two weeks since the Russians invaded, he’s been barely sleeping, working 20 hours a day to feed the people of Russian-occupied Kherson. Each day, the 28-year-old bakes thousands of loaves of bread, loads them into his truck or car, and drives them through the deserted streets, delivering them to people who are increasingly being cut off from outside food supplies as Russian forces choke the city of nearly 300,000.
Kherson was the first major city to fall since the war began. Unified against a common enemy, Ukrainians are finding ways to resist — without even carrying a gun.
Before the war, Servetnyk was a successful chef — he won Ukrainian MasterChef in 2019, and ran a pizza restaurant in Kherson. But on Feb. 24, the Russians invaded Ukraine — and his life changed.
As the Russians shelled his country, Servetnyk and his partner drove to his parents’ house in a village on the outskirts of Kherson, desperate to flee Ukraine. “Get into the car, we will go somewhere,” he told them. His parents — who had witnessed other periods of tumult in their lives — laughed. “Where would we escape? Who is waiting for us there?” he remembers them saying. “The Russians are coming soon, they tell us that this is Russia now and we will go on with our lives.”
So Servetnyk decided to stay and resist. Many of Kherson’s bakers had either fled or gone into hiding, so Servetynyk turned his pizza restaurant into a bakery, and began making thousands of loaves of bread. To feed more people, he also roped in other bakers and distributed their bread, too.
“We did not escape, did not leave, but rather started saving people as best as we could,” he says.
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