An old Eltham biscuit recipe used to sustain Taranaki soldiers during two World Wars has been revived to help Ukrainians.
David and Maria Hancock, who own boutique bed and breakfast The Old Eltham Post Office in the small Taranaki town, say they have been inspired by the efforts of Helena Barnard more than a century ago.
"To me she was a hero, she never gave up, she was so strong."
Maria says Helena was an incredible woman who was determined to do her bit to support New Zealand's soldiers overseas.
When David and Maria moved to Eltham a few years ago, they read up on the history of the town, and came across the story of Helena Barnard. Her story made a lasting impression on them, says David.
"She had nine children, eight were boys. Of those, six went to fight in the first World War and two never came home. She used to send them, and other soldiers, small gingernut biscuits she baked. They were smaller than normal biscuits because her boys liked to keep them in their pockets when they went tramping on the mountain before the war so they were pocket sized, the size of a shilling apparently."
When the couple moved to Eltham and bought the old post office building, they decided to name one of the suites after her, with The Helena Suite now a beautifully decorated highlight of the building.
As news broke of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Maria says her heart broke for the people of Ukraine.
"I am Romanian, I know what life is like when there is a dictator involved. I knew when the news started about Putin threatening Ukraine, he would not stop. He has to be stopped as he will not choose to stop himself.
"What is happening there is really, really tragic and I feel so much for the people of Ukraine, they do not deserve this. We had to do something, we all have to do something."
Remembering the story of Helena and the biscuits, the couple were inspired to try out Helena's recipe. David baked a batch and Donna Stewart offered to sell them in her business The Coffee Shack with all proceeds going to the Red Cross Ukraine humanitarian crisis appeal. The first batch sold out within hours, and David has been busy in the kitchen baking as fast as he can to keep up with demand.
The biscuits are also being sold at Barbara Valintine and Mark Bellringer's eclectic design shop The Bank, says David.
"Everyone has been really supportive of the idea, and everyone we have spoken with has wanted to help. We are really grateful to Maree Liddington and Jenny Mack of the Eltham Historical Society for their help in finding out so much about Helena and her biscuits."
The couple plan to keep baking the biscuits as long as people will buy them, says David.
"It's just a way we can light the candle and help the people of Ukraine, just as Helena did all those years ago."