I had been writing this blog piece below over the past few weeks. Just reflecting and thinking. And also, simply dreaming. About being back in Kyiv and not having to wonder any more about when the war will end. I was going to put this blog piece out this week and then this morning Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine were attacked and it is very scary and incredibly sad. Makes this blog piece now all feel rather unreal, but this is the Kyiv I know and love. I believe Ukraine will heal and get stronger and be better than ever. The West needs to help Ukraine more. Russia is a pure terrorist state and if they get away with this war they will not stop. Further, their acts of evil will spur on North Korea and every other dictatorship. There is way more at stake here than just Ukraine. I am amazed how complacent the free world actually is. Help Ukraine now. No one is asking the West to send in soldiers or risk their lives, but the least they can do is give Ukraine what it needs to win this war. Ukraine is fighting for Europe and the democratic world.
Ukraine is not firing missiles at cities in Russia and killing innocent people there. But Russia does this constantly, and yet, they are a member of United Nations Security Council. I really don’t get it. I don’t get any of this. I don’t get why Mr. Zelensky has to beg for help. The West should be embracing Ukraine. They are doing the world’s dirty work.
Last month I was in Kyiv. The journey to get there from George in South Africa was long and intense, but was worth it. Kyiv is a magical city. A well kept secret in the world. It was good to be back at the Nest and to see some of our friends. I got a bunch of important stuff sorted out and walked the streets as much as I could. I believe we will back in Kyiv by the time this coming winter ends.
There were many things I made notes of during this time. Things that were different. Stuff that I noticed. And of course, things that were the same. Like the spirit of the people and the love of the city. One thing that was still pretty similar was the traffic in the city center. But what I did not see were sports cars and bling mobiles. There were still enough Mercedes cars and Range Rovers, and mostly in the colour black, but nothing more exotic than that. I was told that either the nouveau riche with the flashy wheels all went abroad or they are simply too embarrassed to drive such cars now all things being considered. I would say about 1 out of 5 shops have closed and that the city was running at about 50% capacity. That is my gut feeling. I was told that a few months ago it felt like a ghost town so I was very encouraged to feel the buzz of the city while I was there. Life goes on.
Most of our favourite restaurants are still open and many of them were pretty busy. Not packed, but not quiet either. When I chatted to some of the waiters at JZL they told me it is not full like it used to be but that business was ok. Not great, but not a disaster. I took some new friends from CBS there for a bite one Sunday as well as an afternoon Kyiv tour, and it was a fantastic meal and a fun tour. Also, there are a bunch of new places that have opened up. Kyiv never stops amazing me.
There was an infectious positivity and optimism when I was there. You felt it everywhere you went. And there was an incredible consciousnesses and respect for those who were at the front, fighting the war. No one in Kyiv is taking anything for granted.
I had a brilliant cheeseburger in Lviv on route to Kyiv at a placed called Epic Cheeseburger. It was seriously off the charts good, and the place was rocking. When I told my friend Anton in Kyiv about this he said “we are living every day like it could be the last”. We both smiled and laughed. It was a kinda nervous laugh. There is war on the go, and things are far from normal, and yet, people find humour in everything in Ukraine, and life not only goes on, but it goes on like it does in Israel, with spirit and passion. I am back in South Africa now and I miss Kyiv.
At night you can see a noticeable difference. When you look out the window you don’t see any cars on the road after 11 pm and all the city lights are off all the time. The kitsch neon signs and high-tech high-rise building advertising that are a part of the Kyiv evening landscape are not lighting up the sky at present. They will be back on again I know, and will light up the sky like before. It is a unique city and the kitschness just somehow all works.
The exciting energy is Kyiv is hard to describe in words. And now, in the past few weeks, there is increased bravado, and razor sharp humour, unity like never before, innovation, and a whole lot more. One very important point: no one behaves like victims. A country at war, invaded by its insane neighbour, for no reason, and a nation that is positive and optimistic. Yes, there is a lot of pain still to come, but Ukraine will win this war, and they will rebuild. I miss the positive energy. Back in SA there is a negative vibe and there is no war here.
Here are some pics I took in the city center. These are some of the iconic historical places that make Kyiv what it is. And now, they have decommissioned war machines as an added attraction. Dark and haunting, and in some strange way, empowering. Life does go on indeed.