Bread in Ukraine: why a loaf means life

From 1843 Magazine:

On March 7th, less than a fortnight after Russia invaded Ukraine, an industrial bakery in Makariv, near Kyiv, was hit by Russian shells. At first people hoped that no one had been working there at the time. But this is Ukraine, where bread is taken seriously: 13 people had been killed. In the Guardian newspaper Andrey Kurkov wrote a lament for Makariv bread, “a soft, white, brick-shaped loaf”, remembering the fragrance of it, its taste when dipped in fresh cow’s milk or spread with butter and salt, and his sense that after the bombing it might instead taste of blood.

Nine days after the bakery bomb, more people died as they queued for bread farther north in Chernihiv. The city was under heavy bombardment and later encircled by Russian forces, but where bread was concerned there was no question that citizens should continue to go out with shopping bags and stand in a line, easy victims. How else could they obtain the very stuff and staff of life, the food a hungry human first thinks of? In other towns, bread was being delivered by busy volunteers. Around the same time, the mayor of the village of Hostomel was shot dead as he distributed bread to residents. He was handing out medicine, too. In terms of comfort and reassurance, there is not much difference.

The Ukrainian flag is really an abstract landscape: a cobalt sky – perfect harvest weather – above a yellow wheatfield

Meanwhile, the bakers of Ukraine have been working harder than ever. Brick-shaped and flute-shaped loaves have been layered like munitions into rattling metal trays, part of the war effort. In Kherson, one man has been working 20 hours a day, producing thousands of loaves of “Victory Bread” to hand out from his truck round the streets of the beleaguered city. At a certain point he was kneading dough so long and so hard that his wrists seized up and he couldn’t open doors. Why this extraordinary effort? Because bread, he explained, is visceral to Ukrainians.

In Ukraine, people have been baking since the dawn of time. The very aroma of the crust stirs a deep feeling for the Motherland, a love of the earth in which the wheat and rye seeds germinated. The Ukrainian flag, after all, is really an abstract landscape: a cobalt sky – perfect harvest weather – above a yellow wheatfield.

he importance of bread to Ukrainians, both physically and spiritually, has been clear far beyond the country. Refugees reaching Poland are given a warm drink and a piece of simple, ungarnished bread. In Parabiago, outside Milan, Matteo Cunsolo is making and selling “peace bread” in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. In shape it is much like Makariv bread, a heavy oblong, different from anything Italians themselves eat; the bottom half is stained with saffron, the top coloured blue with an infusion of the butterfly-pea flower. Meanwhile the Bakehouse in Kyiv, which is handing out thousands of loaves to residents, is being supported by Proof Bread of Mesa, Arizona, to buy flour and yeast.

Link to the rest at 1843 Magazine (sorry if you hit a paywall)