Getting to Kharkov in the middle of the war is no easy task. To enter the city from Odessa, one must resort to a combination of car, train, and good luck. On the way, the train carriage is stopped by a Russian missile attack, causing the passengers to fall silent as anti-aircraft alarms sound. To ease the tension, Volo, the interpreter, tries to make a point and warns that Lyudmyla will want them to try all the food dishes she offers.
Lyudmyla is in charge of welcoming them at the Odessa train station. She quickly transports them in a car, dressed in several layers of warm clothing and a scarf, to keep them warm in the cold Ukrainian weather. A year ago, Lyudmyla was in charge of the student dormitory at the Kharkov Academy of Design and Art. Today, she cooks for all those who knock on her door, including Ukrainian servicemen eagerly waiting for a hot dish.
As they share the meal, Lyudmyla recalls the first day of the war, when Chinese university students came to her office and asked her what they were going to do. Lyudmyla’s voice cracks as she talks about that moment, but she soon recovers and offers more food to her guests. Lyudmyla admits that war is scary, very scary, and remembers the friends she has lost to Russian bombing. Where once there was life and youth, now there is only rubble and gunpowder.
Lyudmyla gets up from the table and brings several jars full of food to take to the Bajmut soldiers. She believes that food is as necessary as a rifle, for without it, a soldier cannot fight. She wants her food to remind the soldiers of home and the food her mother made before the war. In times of war, a hot plate can be a vital reminder of life and the importance of maintaining hope and humanity in the darkest of times.
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