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One pierogi at a time, Polish food writer fundraises for Ukraine

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Liverpool, United Kingdom – To fundraise money for Ukraine, London-based Polish cookbook author and food blogger Zuza Zak is organising charity cooking workshops to teach people how to make pierogi, one of Poland’s national dishes and culinary pride.

Zak said she was in the middle of working on her third cookbook when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

After a call from her friend, Russian chef Alissa Timoshkina, she decided to join fundraising efforts and created a series of pierogi-making workshops code-named Pierogi for Peace.

“I was grateful for the opportunity to put my anger to good use by raising money for those that need it most right now – the children in Ukraine – whilst doing what I love,” Zak wrote about the beginnings on her blog.

One Pierogi for Peace workshop raises about £1,500 (€1,780), with all proceeds going towards the Cook for Ukraine fundraiser, which has so far raised over £370,000 (€440,000) for UNICEF in the UK.

Cooking dumplings for peace

Dumplings – pierogi in Polish – are a flagship meal in Poland with many varieties and even its own patron, Saint Hyacinth.

The Pierogi for Peace workshops get people rolling and dying pierogi dough while talking and sharing stories around large tables in a studio in London’s creative Hackney neighbourhood.

“Dumplings are meant to be made in a group while chatting. It’s a very connecting and therapeutic activity,” Zak told Kafkadesk.

The food writer said she spent a lot of time experimenting with natural dyes to be able to create dumplings in Ukrainian blue and yellow colours.

In the end, she decided to use blue spirulina to create vibrant blue and yellow patterned dumpling dough.

During her last session, Zak taught participants how to make traditional Polish Christmas dumplings filled with mushrooms and sauerkraut and also so-called “Pierogi Ruskie” that are filled with potatoes and quark cheese.

Although ‘Pierogi Ruskie’ are often translated as ‘Russian dumplings’ and many Poles think they refer to Russia, they are in fact named after Ruthenia, an area in Ukraine.

Therefore, Zak said she felt it was “appropriate” to cook this version of dumplings during her workshop.

How to take part in the Pierogi for Peace initiative

As a dessert, participants tried making dumplings with orange peel, vanilla and twarog, a Polish curd cheese, and another version filled with spiced sweet potato.

“I tried to give everyone small amounts of dough, but somehow we ended up with thousands of pierogi,” said Zak while describing her last workshop organised last month.

Credit: Alick Cotterill

Each session hosts 15 home cooks ready to master dumpling making and takes approximately three hours.

All people need to bring is an apron and some containers to store all leftover dumplings, said Zak.

The next session will take place on April 30, but the Polish food enthusiast plans to transform the workshops into a regular fundraising event to support Ukraine during and after the conflict.

If you would like to participate, you can book your ticket for £100 (€118) via Eventbrite, and for those who cannot make it to London, Zak plans to hold a special online session too.

For updates and more information, follow her on her Instagram page Zuzazakcooks.

If you would like to join the fundraising efforts, you can donate to the Cook for Ukraine initiative directly or cook Ukrainian and East European dishes, post their pictures online under the fundraising hashtag and encourage others to donate.

By Karolína Boháčová

A freelance journalist from the Czech Republic, Karolína is now based in Liverpool, UK, covering Czech and Polish affairs with a focus on social issues. She previously worked for the Reuters news agency and the international outlet Coda Story. You can follow her on Twitter.