February 15th, 2014
Lyubov owns a coffee shop near Independence Square, the center of Euromaidan. Earlier today I stopped in to ask her a few questions about it.
Me: It’s the 15th of February, and things are a bit tense at Maidan. Lyubov owns this charming single room coffee shop directly across the street form Independence Square. How has Euromaidan affected your business?
Lyubov: Not so good, actually, because when you support Maidan, you need to help of course, and all this product here you give free of charge which is a problem for the business because you must pay the rent and other fees. But I survive somehow – I’m still here (laughs).
You say that you help volunteers of Euromaidan with donations from your shop, but you do so free of charge. Are you happy to help, even though business is slower than before the movement began?
I am happy to help. I understand that even though I have European citizenship, I also want freedom in this country. We have two parts of Ukraine, the West part and the East part, and many times we are fighting because we don’t understand each other. The West part is more European, they travel a lot and have other mentalities, and the East part is pro-Russian so it’s more mafia, you know?
A lot of complaints I’ve heard from other people about government polices is that it’s very difficult if not impossible to start a business in most cases, yet here you are with a coffee shop. Was it difficult for you to get started?
It was difficult, because you have to pay to all of them, you know, every year. Not once, when you open, but every year, they come and say “look, you have problems so you need to p ayfor this, this, and that. If you want to run this business, hey babe, you should pay, otherwise we’ll take your business” and that’s it.
Do they come around every year?
Yes, every year. And if they see that the business is successful, they take it. Or you sell it for a very low cost. If not, they will take it from you.
How long have you been open?
Not so long, a half-year.
So you’ve only had to see them once.
Yes. I opened in July and September, when the season started.
Are you worried about next year?
I know that they will come. I already know them, I know how to speak to them, I already have cash for them, otherwise they will close you.
Is there a way for you to run a successful business that makes money without being closed down?
Yes, if you have connections.
Yes I do. This has helped me a lot, actually
Keeping in mind all of the problems you’ve had to deal with to get your business running, how do you feel about Euromaidan? Is it a good thing?
Yeah, it’s good. They have to show that we have a power, that we can stop all of this that is going on. We want another life, we deserve better. Why do the European countries live better than us? I want the same.
Some people I speak to don’t refer to it as “Euromaidan” anymore, they call it “Maidan”. Is it less about joining the EU and more about a corruption-free Ukraine at this point?
No, it is Euromaidan, totally.
Today is the 15th of February,and there are tensions here. Yesterday, Euromaidan sent out a few thousand bodies to the prosecutor’s office. I accompanied them – it was a long march and they heavily outnumbered the police, yet it remained a peaceful demonstration. Are you worried about what will happen in the coming days?
No, I’m not worried. People will stay here until May. I’ve met a lot of friends from Euromaidan, they spent time here having coffee and we discussed all this stuff. Everyone tells me they will stay here and they will ask people coming into Maidan to support all of this.
In your opinion, is this a protest movement or a revolution?
Even though they are training with shields and weapons and sending thousands of people out in fatigues and rattling their shields in front of government offices?
Provocation! (pointing at me, laughing)
Everyone I’ve spoken to in the tents are committed to non-violence, unless they’re attacked. I was at the barricade yesterday, and Maidan seems ready for anything.
They are ready. Yeah, it’s true. They lost everything, you know? They lost everything. They will stay and do everything. If they start, believe me, they will do everything.
I spoke to people on the street yesterday who support Euromaidan, but they would like it to do something if by Monday the jailed demonstrators are not released. How do you feel about that?
Actually, I don’t know what to say. I’m still waiting and I also want to know what’s going to happen, but I still support them and I will until the end. You know, all people who have come, they have a soul – they want to help with food and clothes and everything, they do everything. It’s very hard for foreigners to understand because they are not here, they don’t feel it. For us, it hurts inside, for all the people who live here. We deserve a better life, we want to have our freedom.