AP PHOTOS: Ukraine bakery supplies bread for the front lines

Oct 1, 2022, 11:54 PM | Updated: Oct 2, 2022, 12:05 am
Dmytro, one of three men working a 12-hour night shift, loads coal into a boiler at a bakery in Kos...

Dmytro, one of three men working a 12-hour night shift, loads coal into a boiler at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. The bakery has remained open despite many challenges. In April it lost its gas supply, but the ovens were reconfigured to run on coal, a system which hadn't been used at this plant since World War II. It's one of two large-scale bakeries left in operation in the Ukrainian-held part of the Donetsk region, most of which is under Russian occupation. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

KOSTIANTYNIVKA, Ukraine (AP) — Seemingly abandoned during the day, the damaged factory building in eastern Ukraine comes to life at night, when the smell of fresh bread emanates from its broken windows.

It’s one of two large-scale bakeries left in operation in the Ukrainian-held part of the Donetsk region, most of which is under Russian occupation. The others had to close because they were damaged by fighting or because their electricity and gas were cut.

The bakery in Kostiantynivka adjusted its working hours according to the rhythm of the war.

Employees at the factory come to work at 7 p.m. to start kneading the dough. By dawn, truck drivers arrive to pick up fresh loaves of bread for delivery to towns and villages where the grocery stores are typically open only in the morning, when, on most days, there is a lull in Russian shelling.

“We bake more bread at night so we can distribute it to stores in the morning,” bakery director Oleksandr Milov says.

The factory bakes about seven tons of bread daily, or about 17,500 loaves. Half of it goes to the Ukrainian military.

Olha Zhovtonozhyk, a woman in her 30s, picks up the round loaves from the conveyor belt and quickly puts them into baking forms. She takes her job very seriously.

“The Ukrainian armed forces are our heroes now, but our job is also important for the life of our country, in martial times,” Zhovtonozhyk says.

Another employee, Olena Nahorna, 48, agrees.

“We are not afraid. We bake bread, because the people, our military, our defenders, need bread,” Nahorna says with a smile, moving the dough to the oven.

Another plant in Druzhkivka is still operational, producing rolls, loaves and cookies.

But the bakeries in Kostiantynivka and Druzhkivka don’t make enough bread for the estimated 300,000 people who remain in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the Donetsk region. In the south of the region, entrepreneurs bring in bread from the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, and some supermarkets have small bakeries.

The Kostiantynivka bakery has remained open despite many challenges. In April it lost its gas supply, but the ovens were reconfigured to run on coal — a system which hadn’t been used at this plant since World War II. The coal-fired boiler is operated by three men.

“It’s such a colossal job; the guys work 12 hours a day,” Milov says.

Milov tried six types of coal before he found the right type with a high heat output. One advantage with the coal system is that the plant won’t need additional heating in winter. There will be no central heating in the region this winter because of the lack of gas.

The bakery faced its next problem in June, when Russia occupied the town of Lyman in the north of the region where the mill that supplied flour to the Kostiantynivka bakery was located. Milov had to buy flour from a supplier in the Zaporizhzhia region, which is 150 kilometers (about 90 miles) from Kostiantynivka.

The added transportation costs increased the price of bread. So has the inflation rate, which is about 20% in Ukraine.

“People’s income has decreased, and people are just buying cheaper products at the moment,” Milov says. His bakers have even had to change the recipe of their bread to keep the price affordable as long as possible.

Another concern is a shortage of grain. In 2021, the harvest in Ukraine exceeded 100 million tons of grain. The new harvest, according to preliminary estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture Policy, is 65-67 million tons. Since Russia has attacked not only fields, but grain storages as well, some farmers are exporting grain for storage abroad.

The bakery in Kostiantynivka has 20 drivers deliver bread daily, not only to cities, but also to half-empty front-line villages.

One of them, Vasyl Moiseienko, a retiree, arrives in his car at the factory at 6 a.m. and fills it up with still hot loaves. He shows the crack in the windshield that a piece of shrapnel left a few weeks ago during a bread delivery run.

“Who else will go? I’m old, so I could drive,” Moiseienko said.

He drives along bad roads to the village of Dyliivka, 15 kilometers (nine miles) from the line of contact. The driver quickly unloads the bread and drives on to another town on the front line.

About 100 people live in Dyliivka, but the village looks empty. Every 10 to 15 minutes the sounds of artillery can be heard. It’s hard to find a cellphone connection in the area, but the data network functions. The saleswoman of the local store writes in the village’s Viber chat that bread has been brought. And within 15 minutes, the store fills up with people.

Liubov Lytvynova, 76, takes several loaves of bread. She says she dries some of it to make breadcrumbs which she keeps in her cellar. She puts one loaf in the freezer to keep it longer.

“We only live in fear. And if they don’t deliver bread, what will we do?” Lytvynova said.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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              Halyna Lomakina returns to her home with loaves of bread she just bought from her local shop in Dyliivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. About 100 people live in Dyliivka, but the village looks empty. Every 10-15 minutes the sounds of artillery can be heard. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              A resident waits in the background to buy bread as shopkeepers receive their daily delivery from Serhii Holoborodko, left, in Scherbynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. By dawn, drivers arrive at the bakery to pick up fresh loaves of bread for delivery to towns and villages where the grocery stores are typically open only in the morning, when, on most days, there is a lull in Russian shelling. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Serhii Holoborodko delivers bread to a shop in Pleshchiivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. The bakery Holoborodko picks up from has 20 drivers deliver bread daily, not only to cities, but also to half-empty front-line villages. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Vasyl Moiseienko, a pensioner, left, watches as a shopkeeper counts the bread loaves he delivered in Dyliivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Moiseienko drives along bad roads to villages 15 km (9 miles) from the front line. He quickly unloads the bread and drives on to another town as every 10-15 minutes the sounds of artillery can be heard. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              An elderly resident arrives to buy bread from a shop before it opens in Ivanopillia, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. "People's income has decreased, and people are just buying cheaper products at the moment," says Oleksandr Milov, director of the nearby bakery. His bakers have even had to change the recipe of their bread to keep the price affordable as long as possible. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              A bread delivery truck swerves through barricades of dirt along a rural road while heading to villages near the front line in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Residents line up to buy bread after it was delivered to a store near the front line in Dyliivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Liubov Lytvynova, 76, center, takes several loaves of bread. "We only live in fear. And if they don't deliver bread, what will we do?" Lytvynova said. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Vasyl Moiseienko, a pensioner, delivers bread from his car to a store near the front line as his wife, Anna Kolesnyk, waits in the passenger seat in Dyliivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. A piece of shrapnel left a crack in the windshield from a shelling a few weeks ago during his bread delivery. "Who else will go? I'm old, so I could drive," Moiseienko said. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              A crack in the windshield from a piece of shrapnel after a recent rocket attack is visible as Anna Kolesnyk sits in the passenger seat waiting for her husband to finish delivering bread to a store near the front line in Dyliivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Since the attack, Kolesnyk now accompanies her husband to front-line villages to be with him instead of at home should something terrible happen. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              A driver loads the last of his rolls before leaving the a bakery to deliver near the front line in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. The bakery has 20 drivers deliver bread daily, not only to cities, but also to half-empty front-line villages. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              A sign reading "bread" in Russian is taped to a windshield of a delivery truck before it leaves a bakery for villages near the front line in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. The signs are placed in windshields in the hopes it gives the driver some level of protection from military operations in the area. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Valentina, an employee who works at night, tosses a ball of dough into a basket before it's baked at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. The bakery is one of two large-scale bakeries left in operation supplying bread for the front lines in the Ukrainian-held part of the Donetsk region, most of which is under Russian occupation. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              The hair bun of Svitlana Labutcheva, is tied up and covered in a hair net as she works at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. The factory bakes about 7 tons of bread daily, or about 17,500 loaves. Half of it goes to the Ukrainian military. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Svitlana Labutcheva, cuts labels by hand for packaging loaves of bread at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Seemingly abandoned during the day, the damaged factory building in eastern Ukraine comes to life at night, when the smell of fresh bread emanates from its broken windows. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              A truck leaves a bakery at dawn in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. The bakery adjusted its working hours according to the rhythm of the war. Employees come to work at 7 p.m. to start kneading the dough. By dawn, truck drivers arrive to pick up fresh loaves of bread for delivery to towns and villages where the grocery stores are typically open only in the morning, when, on most days, there is a lull in Russian shelling. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Kostya, one of three men working a 12-hour night shift, shovels coal to heat the boilers at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. One advantage with the coal system is that the plant will not need additional heating in winter. There will be no central heating in the region this winter due to the lack of gas. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Discarded coal burns in a pile after being used to heat the boilers at at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. The bakery tried six types of coal before they found the right type with a high heat output. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Kostya, one of three men working a 12-hour night shift, loads coal into a boiler at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. The bakery is one of two large-scale bakeries left in operation in the Donetsk region. The others had to close because they were damaged by fighting or because their electricity and gas were cut. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Nikita, one of three men working a 12-hour night shift, loads coal into a boiler at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Since the bakery lost its gas supply, it was reconfigured to run on coal, a system which hadn't been used at this plant since World War II. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              A worker carries coal at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, one of only two large-scale bakeries left in operation in the Ukrainian-held part of the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Seemingly abandoned during the day, the damaged factory building comes to life at night, when the smell of fresh bread emanates from its broken windows. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            
              Dmytro, one of three men working a 12-hour night shift, loads coal into a boiler at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. The bakery has remained open despite many challenges. In April it lost its gas supply, but the ovens were reconfigured to run on coal, a system which hadn't been used at this plant since World War II. It's one of two large-scale bakeries left in operation in the Ukrainian-held part of the Donetsk region, most of which is under Russian occupation. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
            Workers shuffle around carts as loaves of bread are packaged for delivery at a bakery in Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. When Russia occupied the town of Lyman in the north of the region, where the mill that supplied flour to the bakery was located, the bakery had to buy flour from a supplier 150 kilometers away. The added transportation costs increased the price of bread. So has the inflation rate, which is about 20% in Ukraine. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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AP PHOTOS: Ukraine bakery supplies bread for the front lines