Nashville’s Cook for Ukraine Event Unites Dozens of Businesses to Raise Thousands for Refugees

by Clayton Edwards

Across the country and around the world, people are looking for ways to support those facing Russian attacks in Ukraine. Nashville is no different. On Saturday, March 26th, hundreds of Nashville residents and dozens of local businesses came together for Cook for Ukraine. The event which took place during the Richland Park Farmer’s Market raised thousands of dollars for Ukraine. At the same time, it raised the spirits of those in Music City who have ties to the embattled country.

Katya Karagadayeva owns Leningrad Pop-Up in Nashville and organized the Cook for Ukraine event. For Karagadayeva, March 26th was a big day. Leningrad was celebrating its one-year anniversary. More importantly, the business owner was able to give back to the region she called home as a child. Before becoming a business owner in Nashville, she was a refugee. In 1997, her family left Moscow, Russia for Music City, according to Nashville Scene. “I remember what it felt like to be a refugee even though I was 14 at the time,” she told the publication. “A lot of our friends and family members are affected by the war in Ukraine and we wanted a way to help,” she about the event.

Cook for Ukraine Event Brings Nashville Business Owners Together

Leningrad Pop-Up was the focal point of Cook for Ukraine, but other Nashville businesses chipped in. For instance, Bear Creek Farms provided the beef, Yev Mikhailov of Kawai Poké Co. grilled meat on-site during the event. Citizen Incubator Kitchens gave Karagadayeva and her team kitchen space in which to prep for the event.

Nashville residents turned out in droves for the Cook for Ukraine event. According to WPLN, shoppers stood in line for thirty minutes on average to purchase traditional eastern European foods and help the Ukrainian people. According to an Instagram post, Leningrad Pop-Up sold out of everything by 11 am.

All proceeds from Cook for Ukraine went to UNICEF to help Ukrainians in need. The event raised more than $13,000 for charity. Additionally, other vendors at Saturday’s Richland Park Farmer’s Market donated a portion of their profits to charity.

Raising Money and Lifting Spirits

Alexei Smirnov is a Russian immigrant living in Nashville. However, many of his family members reside in his home country near the Ukrainian border. At Cook for Ukraine, he told WPLN that he hasn’t been able to speak to his family since Russian troops attacked Ukraine.

“The past month, it’s been a really bleak time,” he said. “Even though we’re not hiding in bomb shelters and being murdered. I don’t think it feels any easier and I’m not really exaggerating. It’s been a rough time for all of us.” The Nashville resident went on to say that the outpouring of support at Cook for Ukraine gave him hope.

That outpouring of support touched the heart of the event’s organizer as well. Katya Karagadayeva told WPLN, “So many people came together and offered help,” she said. “I had volunteers from the community who came to help cook… I think I cried almost every day because it was just so touching that people really wanted to help, and they put this trust in me that I was going to put it all together.”