By Danny Stusser
When longtime Olympia restauranteur Kenny Trobman learned that World Central Kitchen was getting set to feed Ukrainian refugees, he “immediately knew” what he had to do,” which was to go there and help.
Trobman has his ticket to fly to Krakow, Poland on Monday. Once he arrives, he’ll spend one night there. The next morning, he’ll pick up a car he has rented and drive some two and a half hours to his destination, Przemysl, Poland, a city about the size of Lacey or Olympia.
Why’s he going?
“There are a lot of needs there, as Przemysl (pronounced ‘pre-SHEM-esh-leh’) is very close to the Ukrainian border,” he told The JOLT today. Many of the more than 3,000,000 people who have left Ukraine in the past three weeks have passed through Przemysl, he added.
More personally, “Most of my ancestors lived in the area that is now Ukraine,” Trobman posted on Facebook. “My heart hurts every day due to Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine.”
“I am fortunate to be here today because my great-grandparents were able to flee persecution in Eastern Europe. [Years later,] many of my family members weren’t able to leave and, sadly, were murdered in the Holocaust. Both of my paternal grandparents’ side of our family lived in shtetls [villages] in the region of Kyiv. My maternal grandfather’s side of our family lived in Drohobych, an area near Lviv,” he added.
Most of the refugees coming to Przemysl are passing through on their way to other areas of Poland and other countries. While Trobman hopes to feed people, he’s also ready to do anything that’s needed, he explained.
He’s been communicating with World Central Kitchen staff, who approved his application to participate with them. World Central Kitchen is led by the famous chef José Andrés, who started the organization in 2010 to feed people in Haiti after the huge earthquake there destroyed tens of thousands of homes — and home kitchens.
“I’ve been told that they need people and they need help,” Trobman said, adding, “There are a lot of services and organizations working there now. Once I get there I’ll find out specifically about what I will be doing. “
Besides cooking, that doing might include packing up his little rented Skoda hatchback and delivering meals around the city, or transporting refugees or other volunteers.
Trobman said he can’t stay as long as he’d like, this trip, and plans to return home on April 20.
He said hopes to go back, perhaps soon, to Ukraine to help with the rebuilding process.
But he has his own disaster, too.
Many people know Trobman as the owner of two downtown restaurants named The Gyro Spot.
The smaller of his two locations, on Capitol Way a few blocks north of the State Capitol, largely served state workers, and was wiped out when offices were closed by the pandemic.
The main restaurant, located 317 Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia, had stayed open throughout the pandemic and fed customers through a walk-up service window. That was until disaster struck in June 2021.
The city’s sewer line flooded The Gyro Spot with raw sewage. “I was forced to throw away thousands of dollars worth of products,” Trobman explained, adding, “everything had to be removed and sanitized. The walls, floors and sub flooring were torn out to be replaced.”
He’s done most of the repairs but is still fighting with the city and his own insurance company.
He’s planning to reopen The Gyro Spot by this summer.
Trobman is funding his trip – airfare, car rental, and a room in a hostel two miles from World Central Kitchen’s makeshift warehouse facility – out of his own pocket and with the help of his friends.
If you’d like to help
There are several ways you might be able to help.
1) Support the mission to Poland by sending funds directly to Trobman using any of these services:
2) Support the final push to reopen The Gyro Spot, by buying gift cards. Purchase these online here:
3) Contribute directly World Central Kitchen:
Editor’s Note: This reporter is a longtime customer of The Gyro Spot and friend of Kenny Trobman.