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Western New York community rallies behind Ukranian borscht sausage


How can we help? That's the question the owners of a small sausage company in New York asked after hearing an interview on this show with our host Mary Louise Kelly and Hanna Hopko. Hopko was in Ukraine on the day that Russia invaded two weeks ago.


Is your family safe?

HANNA HOPKO: Also, my husband is with me. The guinea pig is with us.

KELLY: And your daughter?

HOPKO: Daughter is in western Ukraine. Every - almost every hour, she's calling me and asking, mom, how is Nafanyah (ph)? How is Nafanyah?

KELLY: The guinea pig.

HOPKO: Or is Nafanyah - yeah, the guinea pig.


Hopko was one of the original leaders of the Euromaidan protests that toppled Ukraine's government back in 2014 and helped usher in democracy. She was a member of Parliament. And as you heard, she is a mother who, after much thought, bought her young daughter a guinea pig, though war was coming.

STEPHEN ARENDS: And it was just this, you know, strong, independent woman talking about her country getting invaded and that she bought a guinea pig for her daughter. And our company, originally, when we started it, we wanted to focus on strong, independent women.

MCCAMMON: That's Stephen Arends who, with his wife Jessica, heard the interview and runs BABS sausages in Buffalo.

S ARENDS: We just felt like we wanted to do something. And we don't have a lot of money, but we were like, well, we can make a sausage - a delicious sausage for people and give the profits for that.

MCCAMMON: Sausage profits to help Ukraine. To their surprise, the Arends found others who wanted to help. A local farmer sold them one of his favorite pigs. Someone donated casings, and a Ukrainian chef friend helped with the recipe.

JESSICA ARENDS: Just getting those flavors, having that coriander, that allspice, the potatoes, the dill - and finally, we got it where we all tasted it, and we were like, yes, this is the one.

CHANG: The borscht sausage was born, and as for what to name it...

J ARENDS: We always kind of do fun names. So he said, how about the H.H. for Hanna Hopko? We just think that she's an incredible force of nature.

CHANG: The Arends tweeted Hopko to ask permission.

J ARENDS: And she actually responded back to us and sent us a picture of her guinea pig.

S ARENDS: I was worried that she was going to be like, how dare you use my name for something like this? But she seemed, you know, happy that we're trying to help.

MCCAMMON: The H.H. sausage is for sale online, but just in the state of New York.

CHANG: It's also on the menu at Lago 210 on the shores of Lake Erie, where their Ukrainian friend is the chef. Meanwhile, when we last checked in with Hopko, she had crossed the border to Poland.

(SOUNDBITE OF BALMORHEA'S "SKY COULD UNDRESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gus Contreras
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Amy Isackson