Franky van Hintum and Coen van Oosten have become well known names in the Netherlands for providing free food to people at orphanages, refugee camps, hospitals and military stations in war-torn Ukraïne. Throughout November and December the snack bar operators in Helmond and Waspik will be on the road again serving french fried potatoes (pommes frites) and typical Dutch snacks such as frikandellen (fried sausages) and kroketten (croquettes) from their ‘Lekkers Uit Holland’ (Goodies from Holland) food truck in cities and towns heavily affected by the Russian invasion, among them Irpin, Bucha and Borodianka.
This week, for the seventh time they are motoring east along the 2,500 km roadway from the Netherlands to Ukraïne. Next month they will travel together with Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) to the battle-scarred country with a large load of presents bound to help children and adults alike temporarily take their minds off the miserable reality of war’s devastation that has destroyed lives and property. A Christmas ambiance will be created with decorated tents and holiday music, and Santa will be handing out gifts.
90,000 Portions of Fries “My wife is from Kyiv, so the war has an even bigger impact on me,” said Franky, who was deeply affected by the images of Ukraïne citizens desperately fleeing to Poland early in the now nearly nine-month old war launched by orders from Russian President Vladimir Putin. “My first reaction was: I’m going to do something,” and upon sharing the idea with Coen, his good friend did not hesitate in agreeing to help. Together, they departed for the Ukraïne border with €4,000 euros worth of frozen pommel frites and snacks.
“We fried up to as many as 2,000 portions of chips every day. We’ve now been back six times and given away about 90,000 portions of fries and the same again in snacks,” said Franky.
And that’s not all. The distribution list includes 70,000 cans of soda, hundreds of kilos of candy and thousands of donuts.
People sometimes wait for hours in queues stretching more than a hundred meters for fries, and are often eager to tell personal stories of endurance. The cooks are especially touched by conversations with children, who are allowed to scoop fries and pump their own sauce. “The resulting expressions and smiles are worth more than gold,” said Coen.