Pizza for Ukraine, an American NGO based in Lviv, Ukraine, arrives in Dnipro to host a series of masterclasses on Neapolitan pizza to help children displaced by the war. Founded by Corey Watson of Portland, Oregon, its mission in Dnipro is to provide nourishment, psychological support, cultural enrichment and solidarity to Ukrainians affected by the conflict. The first Pizza for Ukraine masterclass took place on 24 January, exactly 11 months after the large-scale invasion began.
Gi.Metal decided to embrace the project and support it. The company supplied Pizza for Ukraine with pizza-making utensils, including peels and small peel from the Azzurra Line, and all the necessary parts. In this way, Gi.Metal offers support to those who are still living the consequences of the war first hand, offering moments of entertainment to displaced families. In this context, the value of pizza is not 'only' as food, but, as a dish recognised all over the world, becoming a symbol of conviviality, togetherness and comfort.
On this occasion, Corey Watson, the founder of the NGO, answered some of Gi.Metal's questions from Kharkiv on how Pizza for Ukraine came about and what its goal is.
Corey, how did you approach the world of pizza and this project?
Encouragement came from many directions. At university I studied political science, but after graduation I worked for 10 years as a software engineer before exploring other lives: I travelled to Italy, discovered Neapolitan pizza and couldn't understand why I had never tried anything like it before! I wanted to attend Pizza Expo in 2020 to develop the knowledge to open the first Neapolitan pizza truck in my hometown of Portland, but the pandemic had other plans for me. After political violence broke out in my city, I came to Italy in 2021 to continue my training as a pizza maker at the AVPN in Naples. My goal had changed: to open my own pizzeria in London. But things soon took a different turn.
What inspired you to create Pizza for Ukraine?
In 2022 my dream of attending Pizza Expo was within reach, but the invasion in Ukraine absorbed all my attention. From the day the war started I imagined myself helping refugees. It was only when I met World Central Kitchen on the Polish border that I thought I could make pizza for the refugees, so I contacted the organisation and asked if they needed a pizza maker. They offered me the opportunity to participate as a volunteer, and I stayed until after Pizza Expo. Without telling my family, I ended up at the Polish border with Ukraine and started serving hundreds of thousands of portions of food for those fleeing or returning. After this experience, I realised there was a need to help people in their home country to give not only nourishment, but also solidarity and support.
What is the greatest satisfaction in making this project come to life?
Offering a warm, bright and positive experience in one of Ukraine's darkest corners. The Ukrainians I met could not believe that someone from so far away was willing to do something, like make pizza for the needy. I saw every possible reaction, from amazement to tears. I feel great satisfaction when these people feel they are not alone, knowing that the rest of the world cares about them regardless of the risk. I am not here for them when it is easy, but when it is difficult, and I must stay without complaining. Just hard work, pizza and smiles!
What does pizza mean to you and how do you think it can offer relief in a difficult time like war?
Pizza comes from a time of war, when Naples in the 18th century was invaded by several foreign rulers. At that time it was the most populated city in the world, but also the poorest. Neapolitans had no space in their dwellings, so they had to cook food in the streets: in this context, pizza was a cheap, quick and delicious solution! It took the crucible of war to create the world's best-loved food, and pizza has always managed to adapt to new environments, cultures and situations. This is the potential of Pizza for Ukraine. The happiest and most common food can be prepared anywhere: there are no limits of environment, technology or danger. It is the best food prepared in the worst situation.
If you would like to learn more about the project and make a donation, visit https://pizzaforukraine.org
Follow on social media @pizzaforukraine