After another whirlwind few weeks in Europe I’m back in Kyiv and it feels great. Don’t get me wrong – I had a wonderful time in Europe as I always do, but there’s something different about Kyiv. Despite a war raging in eastern Ukraine which makes it quite challenging to enter or exit the country, there’s something very special that draws me back.
The most notable difference between any major European capital and Kyiv is simply, the people. The sincere hugs and heart-warming greetings I received upon returning to my Hotel Bursa ‘family’ and friends felt as if they were true blood relatives.
Why have these relationships grown so deep and powerful? I believe it’s the unity created by a common purpose: to stop the slaughter of thousands of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children, and to repel the illegal and unjustified Russian invasion. I know this kind of friendship. It’s a powerful bond forged deep within an air-raid shelter while missiles explode above. It’s almost a mystical connection.
Work Sleep War
Ukrainians work hard. Everyone takes 12-hour shifts. The hotel security team? 24 hours. For a barista slinging lattes and serving meals, there’s little time to focus on anything but work and war. This is the reality of life in Ukraine and it’s a wonder to behold.
Yet somehow, everyone seems to accomplish a little extra to contribute to the war effort. Graphic artists and web designers offer their talents to the government’s social media campaigns. Baristas and bartenders donate their tips to Ukraine’s military. Soldiers never pay for meals.
I routinely see staff at the hotel even when they’re not working. There’s an undeniable gravitational pull that makes them stay close and support each other. Moreover, whenever I visit friends across Kyiv, I always receive a wonderful reception because people united in adversity are family, not just friends.
Live hard, play hard
All this work and war takes its toll and eventually everyone needs some rest and relaxation. Not surprisingly, my Ukrainian friends and ‘family’ are ready to party at a moment’s notice. And this has certainly been the case since I returned a few days ago.
Occasionally however, some people have too much fun beyond the nightly curfew. That’s not a big problem considering there’s always a friend’s couch or unoccupied hotel room. It’s expected because we feel like family, and in the morning there’s another 12-hour shift.
Many would call in sick after a night of overindulgence but not this crew. Ukrainians get up and get to work no matter how they feel because there’s something extraordinary about teamwork during wartime.