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Texans lined up for up to four hours to help bakery raise more than $72,000 for Ukrainian forces

'They stood in line because they wanted more than a slice of cheesecake. They wanted to do everything they could to help,' the bakery's co-owner said.

Texans lined up for up to four hours to help bakery raise more than $72,000 for Ukrainian forces
Cover Image Source: TikTok/spacedragn

Anna Afanasieva has been fraught with worry and fear for her parents and sister ever since Russia began its brutal invasion of Ukraine on the morning of February 24. Her loved ones live in Odessa—the country's third-largest city and a key shipping port on the Black Sea—which has served as a logistical hub for the war effort. Home to more than 1 million residents, for days the world has feared that a Russian attack on the historic port city is imminent. "I felt desperate to do something," Afanasieva, who grew up in Odessa but has lived near San Antonio in recent years, told The Washington Post.



 

The 28-year-old and the staff of 20 at the cheesecake bakery she co-owns came up with one way to help the war effort back home: work day and night to make as many cheesecakes as they could and donate the money from the sales to help Ukrainian soldiers. "Our kitchen is super tiny, maybe 200 square feet," Afanasieva said of her bakery, Laika Cheesecakes and Espresso. "We have 20 employees and we were baking nonstop to keep up." On February 25, she put out the word on Facebook. "In light of the recent devastating unrest occurring right now in Ukraine, Laika Cheesecakes and Espresso will donate all of the sales this weekend (including Friday) towards helping the Ukrainian army," the post said.



 

"Many innocent lives are being affected—including personal friends and family. This donation will go to help secure not only our friends and family but an entire peaceful country being confronted with needless violence," it added. Thousands responded to the post. "I couldn't believe it—it was like all of San Antonio showed up," Afanasieva said. The Laika Cheesecakes and Espresso team worked through the night baking and decorating miniature cheesecakes, which customers buy by the jar, by the slice, or in six-packs. Their hard work was duly rewarded when the weekend arrived as the line for the cheesecakes wrapped around several blocks within hours. Some even waited in line for up to four hours, Afanasieva revealed.



 

Despite the long wait, customers were glad to support the bakery. "Tried today and sold out, but I'll be back tomorrow! Love to you and your families!" one woman commented on the business's Facebook page. "There are still compassionate people in this world," another customer wrote. "Beautiful job you are doing and delicious cheesecake—my book club definitely enjoyed it." Meanwhile, a local pub owner reportedly also offered to help the bakery handle the rush. "This is so beautiful—please let us know if you need any physical help too" they commented. "I can work a cash register for a few hours if need be or whatever."



 

Afanasieva said she was stunned by the local community's overwhelming response and glad she decided to funnel her angst into action. "I couldn't go home to Ukraine to fight," she said. "But I could bake cheesecake." Afanasieva opened Laika Cheesecakes and Espresso with her friend, Viktor Krizma, two years ago; about eight years after she came to the United States as a foreign exchange student and decided to apply for legal residency. "When I learned that Ukraine was under attack, I realized the only real way for me to help my parents and others in Ukraine was to buy more ingredients, sell more cheesecakes and donate the money," she said.



 

When they closed the bakery on February 27, about 3000 San Antonians had purchased over 4500 jars or slices of cheesecake over the course of the weekend. On top of their purchases, some customers had also donated money to a fund for Ukrainian soldiers' resistance efforts, bringing the total to more than $72,000. That number has since climbed to about $100,000, as people continue to donate on the Laika website. Afanasieva and Krizma have forwarded the earnings from everything they sold in the cafe between February 25 and 27 and customers' donations to a fund in Ukraine earmarked for military supplies.



 

"I never imagined it would be so successful and that so many people in San Antonio would turn out," Afanasieva said. "They stood in line because they wanted more than a slice of cheesecake. They wanted to do everything they could to help. Even after we'd sold out of cheesecake and coffee, they continued to show up. They were happy to give to the cause even if they received nothing in return. Here in San Antonio, people have big hearts."

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