Ukrainian Teen in Freeland prepares to travel home amid war
“I miss them”
FREELAND, Mich. (WNEM) - If you’ve been to Baynes Apple Valley in Freeland this fall, you may have met Denys.
The 17-year-old from Ukraine made his first trip over to the U.S. last month, quickly becoming a close friend to the staff at Baynes. He’s their newest chef—locally famous for his homemade borscht, a traditional Ukrainian soup.
“My first day, [the chef] says, ‘You can prepare your favorite soup, your traditional soup,’” said Denys Knyazenv Olekder. “It’s like beets, cabbage, carrots, potato, pork meat, and these vegetables—so good together and it’s my favorite.”
It’s a recipe he knows entirely from memory.
“As he says, it’s made with love and you can taste that in the soup,” said Marc Young.
Marc is a close friend of Denys’ family, meeting them while doing relief work in Ukraine.
“I went into Ukraine, initially late March, so I was there right after the war broke out and I’ve made four trips back and forth since then, doing different jobs in the humanitarian aid field,” said Young.
He’s now serving as Denys’ “host father,” while he spends time in Michigan.
“He’s my friend and he is... like my brother,” laughed Knyazenv Olekder.
Young said it felt good to have Denys’ family take such good care of him and now, he gets to return the favor.
“One day, we were driving home from Midland and Denys said to me, ‘I think I’d like to be a cook’ and we just happened to be in between the Sports Zone and Baynes and I’m like, ‘they’ll be busy this time of year!’” said Young. “So, I spoke to Ben [Coughlin] and they all met Denys and as we all have fallen in love, its turned out to be a great fit.”
Denys heads back to Ukraine on Christmas Day, but with his birthday coming up, this will likely be his final goodbye to his Baynes family. Once Ukrainian men turn 18, they can’t leave the country, under martial law.
“I live in a safe city, so, I’m not worried about the war, because I want to be with my family, I want to be with my friends and I have church, so, I’m not worried about war,” said Knyazenv Olekder.
TV5′s Lauren Piesko stopped by this week to meet Denys and try his borscht—and highly recommends trying it before it’s gone.
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