Community Rallies to Support Ukrainian Bakery, Raising $72,000 in Donations

Anna Afanasieva, the Ukrainian co-owner of Laika Cheesecake & Espresso in San Antonio, Texas, was visibly overcome in an Instagram video on Wednesday as she revealed the total donations her shop had raised from the community to support Ukraine.

Afanasieva opened Laika Cheesecake in late 2020. Her home city is Odessa, Ukraine, the largest port city on the Black Sea and a key target for advancing Russian forces. Military analysts have warned that Odessa is critical to Ukraine's economic survival and residents are bracing for a major attack. On Wednesday, Kherson became the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian troops after days of battle that left 300 Ukrainian civilians and fighters dead, according to the city's mayor. Kherson is just over 120 miles from Odessa.

Afanasieva told Newsweek that her father, mother, sister and grandmother were all still in Odessa. "The thought has crossed my mind to go there and be there with them," she said. "But I think I can be of more help here. I can collect the money, I can donate."

Between Friday, February 25, and Sunday, February 27, Afanasieva said her bakery collected $72,405 for a fundraising account of the National Bank of Ukraine that will head toward the Armed Forces of Ukraine. While most of the total was raised from sales of cheesecakes, coffee and merchandise, about $25,000 came from direct donations that were not associated with sales.

"This is completely crazy, this is completely mind-blowing," she said on Instagram. "We have never expected this much support and we are very very grateful to everybody who showed up."

Members of the San Antonio community waited in line for hours to support Laika Cheesecake after the shop announced on February 24 that its weekend sales would be donated to Ukraine. Word of the local business's efforts spread quickly through social media. A video taken by Troy Kless with local station KENS-TV showed a long line of customers that sprawled for blocks leading up to the bakery.

Among the residents to promote the shop's fundraising effort was Brent Barry, a former San Antonio Spurs player and current vice president of basketball operations for the team. "This is the Ukrainian cheesecake and coffee place Laika Cheesecakes on Broadway," he wrote in a tweet on Sunday. "The line's around the block."

Afanasieva said that Laika Cheesecake will continue to accept donations at the store and through their website until the end of the war in Ukraine. She urged other Ukrainian-owned businesses in the United States to try their own fundraising strategies. "As we have discovered, there are so many people in America who want to help but just don't know how," she said.

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Community Rallies to Support Ukrainian Bakery
Laika Cheesecake & Espresso collected over $72,000 to support Ukrainian armed forces over the weekend. Co-owner Anna Afanasieva comes from the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. Liudmila Chernetska/iStock / Getty Images Plus