On February 26, Olia Hercules posted an image of a printed photo on Instagram: “My mum, my brother and me. Circa 1985 by the Black or Azov sea. I look as fierce and pissed off as I am right now,” reads the start of the caption. “Sasha, my brother, is now in Kyiv. We are taking everything into our own hands.” This was two days after the Russian military began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and it was not Hercules’s first post on the matter. The London-based chef and author of the cookbooks Summer Kitchens: Recipes and Reminiscences from Every Corner of Ukraine, and Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and Eastern Europe was in the midst of starting what would soon become a worldwide fundraising and awareness campaign, "#CookForUkraine".
Hercules, along with her friend, the food writer Alissa Timoshkina; social personality Clerkenwell Boy; and Unicef's NEXTGen London team, led by Layla Yarjani, established an official Just Giving page—within 24 hours, they’d raised over $7000 for Unicef UK. The hashtag was flooded with images of Ukrainian dishes made by home cooks and chefs alike, many sharing personal anecdotes about their relationships to the country and escalating conflict. Over the past week, they raised over $150,000.