EU helps displaced women from Crimea to open mini bakery in Kakhovka

In 2016, two residents of Alushta, researchers of the Crimean Natural Reserve moved from Crimea to Kakhovka in the Kherson region. Iryna Mamrotska and Olena Burziieva decided to start it from scratch. And if in Crimea they once explored trees and insects, they are now cooking dishes of the Crimean Tatar cuisine and implementing their own mini-business project. They are happy with their business. They bake 400 pirozhki, yantiks and chebureks each every day.

For sure, they cannot avoid such words as “our Crimea”, “our Alushta” and “our natural reserve” in the conversation, since it was extremely difficult to leave their favorite business, settled life, housing, friends and relatives. Ukrainian patriots say that after the occupation of Crimea, life became unbearable: the Crimean Natural Reserve collapsed, and moral pressure was felt much. Sincere, energetic and friendly women have found their destiny in the Ukrainian city.


They came out of the comfort zone

chebureki_1They tell, even though with inspiration, but not without grieve about the former work and life in the Crimea. After all, there was everything available there for professional self-realization. Iryna, a dendrologist by speciality, worked in the natural reserve among the forest and trees. Olena, an entomologist, studied insects at the same natural reserve. Life has developed as planned: higher education, postgraduate studies, work. And girls were happy to work with guides in the Crimea.

“First, second course and compote. Everything is measured, spread out on the shelves,” jokes Olena Burziieva recalling. “Work in the budgetary sphere discourages people. They always have work to do. If you are a law-abiding subordinate – no development, adrenaline. And I always had a dream: to have my own little cozy cafe. This stall in Kakhovka is the first step towards realizing a dream.”

Olena says that if she could rewind it all, she would change nothing. It was a kind of punch. At the training sessions, it was often said that the most important thing was to get out of the comfort zone. Therefore, the IDPs, who were forced to leave their native places, so often show activity, start something, learn with pleasure, try themselves in other spheres of life.

Iryna Mamrotska, a friend and henceforth a business partner of Olena, commenting on the decision to leave Crimea, recalled the unbearable living conditions after the occupation. First of all, emotionally, because of the violent pressure on the patriots, people who felt independent and free before occupation.

“2014 was a shock to such people,” says Iryna. “We already treated the former neighbours, who became occupiers, in a different way. We were also shocked by the policy of the aggressor. For example, all state employees were gathered to be engaged in the events on the occasion of the day of reunification with Russia on 18 March. When they heard about my resistance, they asked: “Are you a patriot?” I replied that I was a patriot of my homeland.

Another shock was when my son began to draw tanks and Putin and say that he was the best president. Imagine how they brainwash everyone, even the children!”

That was the last straw that left no choice: The Crimea should be abandoned immediately. Olena’s husband was the first to move to Kakhovka. Later on, he took his family. Subsequently, he lost his job, and his only source of earnings was her business of cooking chebureks.

Iryna Mamrotska manages at the shop, cooking dough and pirozhki


From science to a baker

Why was this business and still in an unfamiliar place chosen by former Crimean residents? Probably because everyone, reminiscing about Crimea, together with the memories about the bright colours of nature, the sea and the sun always recalls the taste of the delicious juicy Crimean chebureks. This dish has become very popular, and a culinary masterpiece is known far beyond the peninsula.

Iryna and Olena tell, “when we began to sell the first chebureks, people tasted and recalled “These are the chebureks I ate in a small cafe in Dzhankoy.” Someone said that he always bought at Simferopol at the railway station, another one told about tasty chebureks in Novyi Svit. These culinary memories of the master cooking chebureks have turned into reality.

Iryna says “When we decided that we would be engaged in fast food, we searched for many things on the Internet, in ancient culinary books. We decided to focus on the Crimean ethnic cuisine. I wanted to bring some oriental flavour. After all, Kakhovka is close to Crimea, and the local residents still remember the taste of their favourite Crimean dishes.”

Iryna likes to deal with dough. Her grandmother taught her how to cook both yeast and unfermented dough. And there is no special secret for cooking pirozhki and chebureks.  Flour, salt, boiling water and oil. The truth is that there is one secret that the mistresses do not realize. To have good bubbles on chebureks after the frying, the dough should rest. The dough, which is kneaded today, will be used to cook pirozhki and chebureks only the next day. So, there is nothing complicated. We need only patience and love for the case.

There is one more secret that Olena told me about. She is inventing new recipes and cooks chebureks on her own. Simply put as much as possible stuffing in the cheburek. As in that anecdote about the secret of delicious tea: put more brew.

Olena also told me how they were looking for a niche for their business. They studied local fast-food establishments and made sure that they, of course, existed. But at these establishments, they cook chebureks in advance, then they reheat them in microwaves or sell cold. There were no establishments where the dishes would be cooked in front of buyers. So, the choice was made by itself. After all, everyone loves chebureks, especially when they are so juicy, with bubbles and fragrant crust, delicious stuffing, made of thin dough – true Crimean.

Olena cooks chebureks with pork, beef and chicken. Dietary option – yantik, which is the same cheburek, but it is fried without oil in a dry frying pan. The recipe for this Crimean Tatar cheburek was found by Olena in an ancient culinary book. Its stuffing includes chopped lamb with the addition of mint and other herbs. But cookers prefer pork stuffing, although it is clear that Crimean Tatars do not cook such chebureks. Dishes filled with beef, bryndza, greens and tomatoes are very popular. In summer, there will cook a green cheburek, which is the one with vegetables, cheese and greens.

And Iryna deals with pirozhki. She bakes them in an oven with a different filling: potatoes and herbs, potatoes and mushrooms, cabbage, eggs and greens, and also liver. The price is not high for a delicious snack. Pirozhki cost UAH 10 to 16, chebureks – UAH 16 to 22. Everyone can afford them, even a resident of a small and not the most prosperous city.


Foreign support

The girls immediately divided their duties in the kitchen in accordance with their preferences. Iryna works in the shop, cooking dough and baking pirozhki, and Olena fries chebureks and sells them. They registered two different private entrepreneurs. Today, they tell about it with ease and jokes. In fact, starting your own business was not easy. Their friends and people they met in Kakhovka helped and supported them.

“One day, our friend Dmytro Khlystiv comes and says that he has registered us for the project and we need to fill out the forms, and he said “You will study and get a grant.” We agreed, since that was exactly what we planned. In the end, I received a grant from the American organization USAID, and Olena – from the International Organization for Migration within the framework of the Facilitating the Rebuilding and Sustainable Resolution of Problems of Internally Displaced Persons and the Conflict-affected Population in Ukraine Project with the financial support of the EU. We have a sign that says “From the American people”. It’s very nice.”

For six months, the business ladies studied the fundamentals of business, the peculiarities of its organization, participated in trainings, and then passed audits of grant providers.

Of course, nobody gave any money to the hands. Using the money of the grants, the necessary modern equipment was purchased for the purpose of equipping the production process:  dough mixer for unfermented hard dough, from which chebureks and yantiks, varenyky and pelmeni are made, expensive ovens of Italian manufacture, where pirozhki are baked. The mistresses bought a deep fryer and a dough roller machine. For sure, the work is much easier with this equipment. Nevertheless, even after mixing the dough in automatic mode, Iryna mixes it manually.

Each of them has her own business development plans. Iryna wants to cook frozen products in future, Olena – to open a small cafe. And now they have already achieved the first business results: they employed three assistants, rented the premises for a new kiosk in another neighbourhood of the city and fully mastered communication with fiscal and other state and supervisory bodies.

And there is one common dream associated with the main profession. The girls want to restore and fix the Kakhovka arboretum. The local authorities began to think about restoring its former beauty. They are solving documentation-related issues. When everything is resolved, then the ladies from the Crimea, the scientists, are ready to make efforts to plant new plants there, organize watering and arrange everything, since they have experience and knowledge. And most importantly, they sincerely wish to help Kakhovka and its hospitable residents make life more beautiful and tasty, kind of thanking for the sincerity, hospitality and kindness.


By Olena Ivashko

Source – Uryadovyi kurier