Borscht is Ukrainian — and to Lesya Kyrpenko, it’s an appropriate dish to mark the year since the Russian invasion set her and her countrymen in a war to maintain their nation’s independence.
Kyrpenko, who fled Kyiv with her 13-year-old twins last year, will mark the war’s one-year anniversary as featured chef of a fundraising dinner she and other Ukrainians are preparing to share their country’s food and culture.
“I want to demonstrate the beautiful Ukraininan language, the delicious food that Ukraine has,” said Kyrpenko, 47. “I’m very honored that I’ll be able to showcase it and how beautiful Ukrainian women are as hosts.”
“Taste of Ukraine: A Gourmet Dining Experience” will provide a five-course meal to diners at Eat Offbeat at 75 Ninth Ave. from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday. The event is a fundraiser is for Razom for Ukraine, a war relief charity, and Ukrainian Habitat Fund, which provides housing for Ukrainians in New York. Meals will cost $50 each; wine pairing is available at additional cost.
The meal will include borscht, Ukrainian tapas, and nalysnyky — crepes served with sour cream, honey and berries.
Ukrainian anthropologist and food writer Marianna Dushar will talk about the dishes and their history during the meal, with traditional Ukrainian music performed by Andriy Mailavsky. For those unable to make it to dinner, takeout lunches will be available at Eat Offbeat on Friday.
Kyrpenko and her children arrived in New York last March, and they now live in the Ukrainian portion of the East Village. Their husband and father stayed behind to defend Ukraine.
Kyrpenko is not a chef by trade — at home, she was a legal services worker. But she’s not ruling out a change of profession. “Wherever life takes me, we will see.”
“New York is a huge, huge ant farm. It’s very grand. It’s international,” said Kyrpenko. “I’m very lucky that I’ve found so many heartwarming people that have welcomed me with open arms in New York.”
The dinner is among a number of events planned in New York over the next few days to denote the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine through poetry, protest, art and film.
Thursday, February 23
3:00 p.m. — Ukrainians will hold a solidarity gathering at Asser Levy Park, 302 Sea Breeze Ave., Brooklyn
5:00 to 8:00 p.m. — Organizers at Razom for Ukraine will accept seeking donations for refugees that have settled in New York at Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, 359 Broome St., Manhattan. Items needed are footwear, umbrellas, and personal care and hygiene products, both for adults and children.
7:00 p.m. — A silent candlelight vigil is planned outside the Russian Consulate, 9 E. 91st St., Manhattan.
Friday, February 24
8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. — A Ukrainian flag raising ceremony will be held at Bowling Green in Manhattan’s Financial District.
12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. — “Unbreakable Spirit: Commemorating One Year of Ukraine’s Resilience and Resistance,” an open house exhibit at the Ukrainian Institute of America, will be held at 2 East 79th St., Manhattan.
The exhibit will have themed rooms and interactive features including an art installation, contemporary Ukrainian paintings, video greetings and a healing space filled with ‘motanky’ sculptures, which are talismans for healing and protection. From 4:00 to 6:00 p.m., the institute will host conversations with a range of people, including those who have experienced the war.
3:00 p.m. — Ukrainians will rally outside the United Nations, at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Manhattan.
5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m — “A Commemoration of Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion of Ukraine” is planned at New York University’s Jordan Center, 19 University Place, Manhattan. Contemporary Ukrainian poetry will be read at an event promoting solidarity with Ukraine and organized by NYU’s Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia and the university’s Department of Russian and Slavic Studies. The event will be in person and on Zoom.
Saturday, February 25
12:00 to 2:00 — Ukrainian artist Misha Tyutyunik will be at Second Ave. and 9th St. in Manhattan to paint a new mural and create a chalk mural with the community to mark one year since the Russian invasion.
Last spring, after the first month of the war in Ukraine, Tyutyunik created a mural on Second Ave. in the East Village that had originally been meant for Ukraine itself.
The artwork was based on drawings and a design that he came up with while in Ukraine in 2018 and 2019 on a Fulbright scholarship, and was intended to be displayed in front of the Kyiv History Museum.
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Instead, Tyutyunik, 38, created the mural in New York. “The design found its way here,” he said. The mural “felt fitting,” he said, and it “put an exclamation point on the history of Ukraine” at a time when that history is being challenged by Putin and Russia.
At Saturday’s event, copies of the mural Tyutyunik created last year will be available for children to take home and color.
“I’m currently working on something to commemorate the war and the resilience of the Ukrainian people in the face of such intense adversity, basically being bombed every single day for a year now,” said Tyutyunik, who lives in Bay Ridge.
The canvas will eventually hang at Veselka, the popular Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village.
Tyutyunik, who has family, friends and colleagues in Kyiv, keeps them close. ”I try to stay in touch with them as much as possible,” he said. “I think ultimately the righteous will prevail.”
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m — Stand with Ukraine 365, a charity event, will be held at the Ukrainian Institute of New York, 2 E. 79th St., Manhattan. Panels featuring economists, artists, philanthropists and experts on the war will take place along with a cocktail reception and silent auction. Tickets start at $50.
5:00 p.m — “Mariupol: Unlost Hope” will screen at Guardian Angels Church, 29-78 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn. The film is a documentary about five inhabitants of the besieged city of Mariupol as the war rages around them for the first month. Suggested donation is $30.