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Hillcrest bakery helps Ukraine one treat at a time

The suffering seen in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left many asking themselves how can they help? KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado spoke with local Ukrainians trying to help and an expert in economics of the region who explains the complex struggle.

Daria Nadar is getting a lot of love and support from her customers at her new bakery in San Diego's Hillcrest area. While her dream of opening Oh My Cake has become a reality, her family is living a nightmare.

"My family are unfortunately — is in the center of all this," said Nadar. "They’re in Kyiv, which is getting bombed right now probably the second we’re talking … they sleep in the basement just in case anything will blow up next to them."

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Feeling helpless, she decided to use her talents to raise awareness and funds for Ukraine, since getting money directly to her family is not easy. She’s donating 25% of her sales to the National Bank of Ukraine’s special account.

"It’s also food, medication, any type of protection that we can provide and help them," said Nadar about the funds.

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And people are responding and buying up her delicious treats.

"They’re coming like crazy. Yesterday the shelves were empty. I’m just overwhelmed by support," said Nadar.

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Kitty Alvarado / KPBS
Daria Nadar, pastry chef and owner of "Oh My Cake," stands in front of her bakery in Hillcrest. Feb. 28, 2022.

During this time people with family in Ukraine, like Nadia Haywas, are trying to help. Haywas said the National Bank of Ukraine is a safe option.

"The military and also all your first responders, the firemen and policemen, people that have to help out there are teachers that are still teaching classes in those subways because they need to keep children calm," said Haywas. "So the National Bank is the best way to get the money to straight to Ukraine with no wait. It’s just the bank transfer."

"What concerns me is the impact of the actual conflict on Ukraine," said Dr. Alan Gin, an economics professor at the University of San Diego. He worries for the people who have to flee and the humanitarian disaster looming.

Gin said having organizations like the International Red Cross and World Central Kitchen on the ground is important. But he said it’s just as important to vet organizations before you give, as many will take advantage of this crisis to take from those in need.

Kitty Alvarado / KPBS
Desserts at Oh My Cake in San Diego, Calif. Feb. 28, 2022.

Gin also said as tough as sanctions will be on ordinary Russians, they are necessary.

"The hope maybe is that if there is widespread difficulties, that might cause people then to rise up and protest and maybe impact the government that way," he said.

Gin also said the effects will be felt here too through higher prices — and it’s not just oil.

"Higher prices for meat, higher prices for grain, Ukraine is the fourth largest exporter of corn in the world they’re the eighth largest exporter of wheat," Gin said. But he urged that we keep things in perspective, "That is minor compared to what the people in Ukraine are suffering right now."

Gin applauded the efforts of ordinary San Diegans reaching out to ease Ukrainians' suffering.

And it can be as easy and delicious as cake; as Nadal said in Ukrainian, "Cake is love!"