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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukrainian Family Thrives on Bread

BRADFORD, England — Jerry Prytulak's father worked for years saving pennies while fighting prejudice and a language barrier to build a small Ukrainian bakery on the outskirts of Bradford in northern England.

Although their Ukrainian rye bread is now sold all over the country, the bakery is more than just a business for his family.

"Ukrainian bread made us very popular. We would not be here without it," said Prytulak, sitting on one of the chairs dusty with flour in a corner office of the Kolos bakery.

His father, Ivan Prytulak, came to Britain as a war refugee in 1947. He worked for 14 years at cotton mills in Bradford before he was able to start his own bakery making local-style white bread.

Business was slow at the beginning and Prytulak, born in Ivano-Frankivsk in western Ukraine, had to return to his baking roots and the distinctive Ukrainian taste to lay the foundations of his family's success in Britain.

"When my parents came here they had one suitcase, no money, no job, nothing," the son said. "One day, my father was delivering to a bakery and saw that Jewish bread was more expensive. He asked why and the baker said because it was a rye bread.

"My father used to make rye bread when he was back home in Ukraine and he started experimenting, mixing ingredients. It took several months to perfect a recipe and then it started — people, shops were asking about us," said Prytulak, selling golden brown loafs of Ukrainian bread in the bustling bakery.

Ivan died two years ago, but his three sons Jerry, Dmytro, Taras and his two grandsons work in the bakery, which produces around 20 types of bread and supplies it to shops throughout the country.

The Prytulak family was one of thousands of Ukrainian families who moved to Britain after World War II. Many of these people were prisoners of war in Germany and chose to settle in the United Kingdom, fearing they would be killed or imprisoned in the Soviet Union.

"My father spent about two years in a displaced persons camp in Germany because no government wanted to take them. They pleaded with the British government: 'Do not send us back [to the Soviet Union], they will kill us,'" said Prytulak.

After the war Britain had what it called an open arms policy, which was motivated by the need to rebuild its infrastructure.

However, a start in a new country was challenging. Prytulak said the language barrier was the hardest.

"It was difficult when we were younger, our first language was Ukrainian. I learned English in school. For the British we were foreigners and had funny names."

He was christened Yaroslav but changed his name. "I was tired of these endless 'pardon, how you spell it?'"

The Prytulak family had to fight prejudice toward foreigners. Jerry's mother Olha said her British neighbors in Bradford were unfriendly at the beginning. "They did not have outsiders here before. It was tough for us, the English were hostile. They did not allow their children to play with our children," she said.

Jerry said he was laughed at school in his first years but then it became easier.

"When the Asians came to the country, they left us alone and picked up on Asians," he said.

The Ukrainian community in Bradford has changed over the years. About 5,000 Ukrainians still live there, but the younger generation feels more British than Ukrainian, Prytulak said.

Jerry, who speaks Ukrainian only to his 75-year-old mother, said his son Alex and daughter Natasha can read and understand the language, while his two grandchildren know only a few words.

His mother said she had started to forget her native language. "My children talk to each other in English. They do not know Ukrainian very well," she said, serving in her living room with pictures of Ukrainian saints on the walls.

Jerry visited Ukraine, which became independent 10 years ago, only once, in 1973. "My home is here. I was born here. We feel more British than anything else," said Prytulak.

Prytulak's family business is a success and the recipe, which was invented 40 years ago, helps to attract more and more clients to the bakery. The clientele has changed — now they are mainly English, not immigrants from Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.

"We are always very busy. Our bread is popular. People like our bread and they are ready to pay," said Prytulak.

He and his two brothers say they are the only people in the world who know the recipe of the Ukrainian bread. He hopes to pass the recipe to his son Alex, 24, one day but says he is still too young.

Customers lining up in the bakery said they would come to buy the bread again.

"I like coming here, it smells like home," says Natasha, a Kiev native who has lived in the nearby city of Leeds since her marriage in 1997.