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Soup for Ukraine: Spokane’s Feast World Kitchen raises thousands of dollars with traditional borscht and beef stew

Ukrainian cooks and sisters Yana Elikh, back, and Violet Elikh make servings of Ukrainian beef stew Friday at Feast World Kitchen.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Two Ukrainian chefs on Friday used their culinary skills to raise thousands of dollars for their besieged home country.

Sisters Yana and Violet Elikh made traditional borscht – a beet soup – and beef stew at Feast World Kitchen, a nonprofit restaurant in downtown Spokane. All proceeds from the day’s soup sales went toward Razom, a nonprofit that’s focused on getting medical supplies to Ukraine.

Ross Carper, Feast World Kitchen’s executive director, estimated the one-day fundraiser would generate about $5,000 for charity.

The Elikh sisters came to Spokane in February as refugees. They’re from Kharkiv, Ukraine, a city that has been heavily bombed during the Russian invasion.

The past two months have been full of worry, tears and prayer for Yana, 31, and Violet, 29. The sisters don’t speak much English, but they said they had fun cooking for hundreds Friday and raising money for Ukraine.

Fundraisers and refugee chefs aren’t new for Feast World Kitchen. The nonprofit’s dozens of chefs are immigrants and refugees from all over the world, some of whom were professionals in their former countries.

Carper described the restaurant as a “small business and job skills incubator.” The menu’s always changing because immigrants and refugees take turns running the kitchen and restaurant on different days of the week. Whatever money Feast World Kitchen makes at the end of a day, after expenses, goes to immigrants and refugees. The restaurant gives people an opportunity to share their native cuisine and learn how to run their own restaurant, if they decide they want to open one, Carper said.

Yana and Violet Elikh explained that borscht and beef stew are staples at home in Kharkiv. Yana Elikh said her family eats borscht once a week.

The sisters’ soups drew positive reviews.

Lynn Adolphson, who came to Feast World Kitchen with her daughters and granddaughter, called the borscht “delicious,” “savory” and better than any she’s made herself.

Diana Tyutyunnyk was especially excited to have borscht for lunch.

Tyutyunnyk was born in Ukraine and came to the U.S. in the late 1990s as a kid. She still has family in Ukraine and said the past few months have often been emotionally painful.

“Sometimes I just cry,” she said.

Borscht is Tyutyunnyk’s favorite dish, and she said the Elikh sisters’ version didn’t disappoint.

“This one was really good,” Tyutyunnyk said. “It was a treat.”