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Cook County Salon offers Ukrainian newcomers their kitchen for fundraiser

A new partnership had Ukrainian newcomers use the kitchen of Edmonton’s oldest country bar Saturday to make traditional dishes as a fundraiser.

Cook County Salon hosted the Free Store for Ukrainian Newcomers volunteers who were preparing fresh and frozen meals to sell and earn money to support their new lives in Alberta.

“We’re the only kitchen in Edmonton that has 100 per cent Ukrainian newcomers,” explained Jorgia Moore, Ukrainian newcomer store co-founder.

“There’s no Canadian employees in there. They’re all Ukrainian newcomers that have come in the last year.”

For many, getting a regular job may not be possible, Moore said, due to childcare situations or a lack of English.

“Each newcomer has a different experience and has different circumstances,” she said. “English, it is a hard language to learn, and they are working really, really hard, but that does put up a lot of barriers for them and also for employment that they really want to do.”

The newcomers prepared a mix of fresh and frozen dishes that can be ordered online ranging from borscht, Ukrainian sausage and pies.

On Saturday, the group had a goal of preparing at least 3,000 perogies.

Ukrainian newcomers prepare perogy at Cook County Saloon as a fundraiser to support their new lives in Edmonton (CTV News Edmonton/Brandon Lynch).

One of those people in the kitchen was Nataliia Bodnrchuk, who fled Ukraine while pregnant with twins and with her two other kids. While she has no formal culinary training other than cooking with her family, she was excited for the opportunity to share her culture.

“This is the first time I am in a kitchen like this,” Bodnrchuk said.

“We are trying to serve Canadians,” she added, “part of Ukraine, by Ukrainian dishes made by Ukrainians.”

In her view, the day felt like being at home, cooking again with her family to prepare for a big holiday meal.

“You feel your home through them,” Bodnrchuk said.

She had never seen a cowboy before, and seeing the Cook County Saloon was a completely new experience.

“It’s been fun,” she added with a smile.

Matthew Pots, Cook County head chef, said it was a no-brainer to offer his kitchen to the Ukrainian newcomers.

“Usually, on Saturday mornings, I’m in here by myself, prepping away,” Pots said. “It’s quite beautiful [today] standing back there hearing them speak their native tongue and really have fun with it, everybody having a good time making perogies and borscht.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jessica Robb

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