A mother who fled to Powys when Russia declared war on Ukraine has baked cakes named after towns in her home country and sent funds from their sales to the east to help those who remain.
Svitlana Frolova was forced to flee her homeland with her seven-year-old son Pavlo and mother Soya, but found a second in Llanwrtyd Wells – where her cakes are now sold at Caffi Sosban.
Svitlana arrived in Britain’s smallest city from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in May to escape the fighting, accompanied by her young son and mother.
She met and spoke to Lindsey Greenough, one of Caffi Sosban’s owners, about making and selling Ukrainian cakes in-store; Lindsey immediately agreed.
Each cake is named after a Ukrainian town, and all proceeds from their sales at the popular Irfon Terrace restaurant are donated to Svitlana, who then sends the money directly to a volunteer group in Kharkiv. they use vital funds to buy food and supplies for the elderly population that remains in Ukraine.
Svitlana, 42, leaped straight into action when she arrived, first getting a job at the Neuadd Arms Hotel. Soon, the idea of raising funds by baking cakes was concocted.
“I really like baking. I made the first cakes for the hotel where I work. And then Caffi Sosban opened and his colleagues said maybe I could cook for them,” Svitlana said.
“That’s how the idea came about to earn money not for me, but to help my Ukrainian friends.
“I offered to bake cakes for Lindsey, the money from the sale is given to me and I immediately send it to volunteers in Kharkiv.
“In my free time, I come to the cafe and cook according to the recipes that I used at home for relatives and friends. Ukrainian names for cakes are not familiar to locals, so I decided to give them names from Ukrainian cities. I have already made cakes from Kharkiv, Kherson, Mariupol, Odessa and Lviv.
Svitlana often has the help of her glamorous assistant in the kitchen, while Pavlo paints little Ukrainian flags that accompany the cakes.
She says she felt a duty to help those left behind, including her husband Denis. “Helping is now the main goal of Ukrainians. I can’t just live in safety and understand that there is real hell in my house,” she added.
“When I started making coffee cakes, I realized it wouldn’t be a lot of money, but I have a lot of volunteer friends in Kharkiv.
“Someone helps the elderly and buys food, someone helps the army, someone helps the animals. So any amount can help. I bake about one cake a week for coffee, more often if I have time. This month (September) I have already sent around £200 to my friends in Kharkiv. I hope to continue doing this. »
Svitlana has reflected on how much life has changed for her and Pavlo – who attends Ysgol Dolafon from Llanwrtyd – since war broke out in February. After taking refuge in her mother’s basement and saying she will “never forget” to hear the bombs exploding nearby, she now shelters in the peace and quiet of the smallest town in Great Britain, nestled at the foot of the Cambrian Mountains.
“Denis is in Kharkiv. Every night he sleeps in the basement of the house because Kharkiv is shelled almost every day several times,” said Svitlana, who worked as a journalist for a local TV news channel.
“The rockets are coming at residential buildings, schools, kindergartens, universities. The city is badly damaged but people continue to live there. My husband works from home, the state does not call everyone into the army so that people who have jobs can support the economy of the country.
“We call him every day and talk via video link. My son and I miss him very much.
“We lived the first week of the war in the basement of my mother’s house. Fighters were flying overhead and bombs were exploding very close, I’ll never forget that. Therefore, if my cakes can somehow help these people who are staying at home and struggling, I will help them.
“I think the worst thing most Ukrainians experience is not being able to plan. We cannot know now when and how this war will end and when we can return home. And if our homes will be intact.
“The only thing we know for sure is that we’re going to win. That’s what I tell my son: you can’t lose because good always wins over bad.
Svitlana admits swapping Kharkiv and its 1.5 million people for Llanwrtyd and its population of less than 1,000 was intimidating at first. But the warmest Welsh welcome made her feel like she had found another home, having been welcomed by guesthouse owners Bernice Benton and her husband John.
“We arrived here in mid-May, in our car. Me, my mother and my son,” she said.
“I heard from friends about the Home for Ukrainians program and decided to try to find a family to shelter us. I went on Facebook, wrote a big post about myself and looking for nice people, and a few days later I met Bernie and John.
“We only spoke on Zoom for a few minutes, but immediately realized it was our family. We completed the necessary paperwork, received permission to enter the UK and left. a few days we traveled all over Europe and crossed the ferry to England.
“At the beginning, I was a little afraid that the city was so small. I’m from Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, but we were so warmly welcomed here.
“For Pavlo, it’s a great school and the people are very friendly and everyone helps. Pavlo received school stuff, including toys and a bike. This town has already become a second home for us, and Bernie and John are definitely my family.
“Pavlo goes to school and his English is improving day by day. My mother is retired and while I work she helps me take care of him.
Llanwrtyd residents have already been very Ukraine-friendly this year, raising almost £3,000 from a charity buffet at Victoria Hall which involved music, a raffle and an auction of prizes donated by businesses and other community members.