HENRIETTA, N.Y. — So much is lost during times of war. That can be felt in communities far from the frontlines as battles rage on between Ukraine and Russia.
One student is committed to saving the culture her country is fighting to preserve — one meal at a time.
Hospitality students at the Rochester Institute of Technology were given the assignment in their restaurant and event management class to create a pop-up lunch for 200 guests. For RIT student Nika Pikulik, the choice was easy, honoring her homeland through traditional Ukrainian cuisine.
“Today we're doing Ukrainian-style crepes," said Pikulik. "We are serving them with these platters of beautiful triangles. Then we made a berry compote with orange zest and a variety of different blackberries, blueberries [and] raspberries. We are also doing our traditional cheese filling made with cottage cheese, cream cheese and milk — also how it's traditionally eaten — and some homemade whipped cream. Lastly, we have a Ukrainian-style potato salad.”
This event allows students like Nika Pikulik to provide not only a taste of her culture, but the experiences her family has gone through.
“During the Soviet Union, my family was under religious persecution due to the Soviet Union regime," said Pikulik. "So I had uncles and grandfathers who were in jail due to their beliefs. And in 2000, when the U.S. started accepting religious refugees from Ukraine, my family all came over here, and I think it was one of those safe cities that were accepting a lot of refugees.”
She's feeding not only the bodies, but the minds of others as she brings awareness of her heritage.
“We've been having a lot of conversations about the war and what it means and how people are living during war times," Pikulik said. "Also, the challenges that refugees are experiencing in different countries, but the support they are getting has also been amazing.”
Pikulik hopes her efforts can spark conversation and support Ukraine on her college campus.
“We have a very diverse group of college, right?" said Autumn Geer, director of event operations at RIT. "So they know what the school is kind of missing. So, you know, they get to share that home and that comfort and the things that they grew up with, with students. And also it gives students the opportunity to try something that they may have never had the opportunity to try.”
Pikulik believes bringing food will bring others to the table and unite the community.
“I have the privilege of going to school and doing things like this with amazing classmates that also have really diverse backgrounds and similar stories," Pikulik said. "So I think on the RIT campus we have a lot of immigrants that have bonded because of that. We have good food and we're happy people and although there's a war going on, we're not forgetting the culture and the heritage, and the history of Ukraine and that it will be a country.”