Two years after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Alliance2015 members keep working united to ensure more help to Ukrainians in need in war-affected regions. ​Joint emergency Response in Ukraine (JERU) is a partnership of Alliance 2015 members Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe

As part of JERU, mini grants are provided to self employed individuals wanting to start their own line of work or expand their business to financially sustain themselves and their families. JERU and our Ukrainian partner Posmishka UA provided 1 200 EUR per person and supported 10 self employed entrepreneurs.

OLENA, freeze-dried food producer

Olena, a 48-year-old resident of Donetsk Oblast, was a successful business consultant until 2014. But with the outbreak of hostilities, she lost her job and so she decided to work for herself. And Olena made a fresh start – first, she set up a company to produce sanitary products, then she set up a farm to grow microgreens, and then she started breeding quail.

“Life just started, in 2019 I bought a large territory in our town for my company, then I also started a microgreen farm. These are edible greens and edible flowers that I supplied to restaurants. We lived well – now it’s over. In 2022, we had to start all over again”.

And when shells began to explode in her native Kostiantynivka, 20 kilometers from the front line, and windows in her apartment were blown out, she thought about relocation.

“It was the first time in my life that I saw an air bomb. And it was very scary. When it flies, you think it’s an airplane. And we look up at the sky to see how and where it’s flying, and then BANG!”.

Together with her 72-year-old mother, Olena moved west to a small town in Ternopil Oblast. Olena was actively involved in volunteer work. She delivered the remnants of her sanitary products to orphanages and began thinking about what to do now. Why not create something that brings both benefit and pleasure? Olena started making freeze-dried food. Especially since at that time, in the fall of 2022, missile attacks on critical infrastructure increased and Ukraine plunged into darkness.

“My goal was to create a product that was healthy, convenient, and easy to cook. All you need to do is boil water in a cezve by candlelight”.

This is how strawberries, cherries, and various vegetables appeared, as if fresh from the garden, stewed potatoes with meat, mashed pea soup, and even an omelet. The kitchen of the former restaurant, which the family rented, is run by two women. Olena and her mother peel potatoes, chop vegetables, and cook soups. The smell is incredibly delicious. Although it was difficult to win the favor of consumers at first.

“I decided to make a video for Instagram. There were some builders working not far from here. And imagine, they refused to try the soup on camera. But the next day, one of them brought the dishes and asked if there was any extra. Because it tasted just like home!”

This proved to be a successful combination of home cooking and high technology. The business began to grow rapidly, as the food turned to be extremely convenient in the face of blackouts or frequent travel. Olena reads all the feedbacks and when consumers said they wanted the food to be sold and served in cups, Olena applied for a grant from JERU.

“If you want it in cups, it will be in cups. I bought a packaging machine, and it will seal the cups. I also bought a multifunctional food processor. I study a lot. The only way to succeed is to look for opportunities, use your brain and do something”.

Olena’s next plans are to re-locate her quail farm and start making smoked and pickled eggs.

“I decided that I should work in the same way as I did before. Everything I do here, I will leave here as a branch when I go back home. And when I realized this, everything started to go up again”.

When Olena returns home, she will set up a  microgreen farm again and breed quail. “When” and not “if”. The businesswoman has no doubt about it.

Freeze-drying is a process of heat treatment of food under vacuum conditions that takes place in several stages.
1. Products or even ready-to-eat meals are subjected to shock freezing.
2. The frozen products are placed in a special freeze-drying machine, where moisture evaporates from the ice under vacuum without defrosting.
This process helps to preserve 95% of the beneficial properties. Before eating, the meal is poured with boiling water and allowed to brew for several minutes.

Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine, October 2023
Author: Oleksandra Titorova, JERU Communications Officer
Editing Advisor: Carly Ziska
Photo credit: Oleksandra Titorova, Volodymyr Opyr/Posmishka UA

Read more about our projects in Ukraine here.

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