At Offensive, a new Kyiv bar, revellers toast to Putin’s downfall amid the debris of war

(KYIV, Ukraine) — A group of friends in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, opened what they call the first military-meme art bar: Offensive.

On the walls of a new bar, there’s a piece of a Russian UAVs, a spent shell, the debris of the downed Russian jet and a few uniforms of captured Russian soldiers. There are a bunch of war trophies and war-related jokes.

The opening comes ahead of the Ukrainian army’s much anticipated counteroffensive against Russians forces on the front line, some Ukrainians have turned the current success of their Armed Forces into a brand.

“Most of these items were brought to us by our friends in the Army who participated in the Kharkiv counter-offensive,” said Borukh Feldman, the owner of the bar, whose name has been changed for security reasons.

He referred to a remarkable blitzkrieg of the Ukrainian forces in the east in early September last year when they managed to liberate a few hundred settlements in a few days.

“And I’m sure there will be even more new pieces from the future operations,” Borukh said.

The idea to open a military-style bar came to him back in 2015, he said, when the war in Ukraine was practically frozen — Russia annexed Crimea and parts of Donbas and there were only random shots fired on the front line.

“Then people almost forgot about the war, so I wanted to establish a place to remind of it,” Borukh recalled. He didn’t have enough money then to open a bar, but now it’s easier since the price of the rent dropped due to the full-scale invasion and power outages caused by Russian attack on the Ukrainian energy infrastructure in autumn and winter.

Now, the bar not just reminds people of the war, but it’s a way to go through this traumatic experience, praise the military and help the army, Borukh said.

One of the customers ABC News met at the bar was an American from the International Legion, who asked no to disclose his name. He said he was passing by, noticed the name, decided to pop up and found the place “very comfy.”

“I have friends for example in the Azov battalion and they said they feel like home here” Borukh said. “The military entourage is very familiar to them but they can relax here and be sure everyone understands them.”

The memes on the walls of Offensive are a fascinating mixture of very particular Ukrainian jokes, dark humor about the deceased Russian soldiers and propaganda posters with F-16 jets and Neptune destroying a Russian warship.

“The sense of humor helps us stay sane and be resilient,” Borukh said. “Some memes were created by our soldiers right in the trenches. They presented them to us and said this bar is blessed by the Armed Forces,” Borukh laughed. “And that is true. If not [for] our army we wouldn’t be even alive probably.”

That’s why fundraising is a must for the owners. The bar hosts regular concerts of some underground Ukrainian bands to raise money for certain needs Borukh’s military friends have on the frontline — from walkie-talkies to drones.

Not only the decor of the bar is unique, but, of course, the menu, too. It has some craft blackberry beer brewed locally and “fried Putin,” which is actually a variation of the Canadian poutine.

One could think it’s crazy to start a business during the war. But cafes, bars and restaurants are one of the most successful businesses in Ukraine and in particular in Kyiv, a vibrant megapolis, which both locals and foreigners love for the food, coffee and casual lively atmosphere.

Around a hundred establishments were opened in the city during the last year, many owned by internally displaced people, who lost property in the occupied areas of Ukraine or just preferred to move out of the occupation.

“It usually takes half a year or even a year to become profitable in the gastro sphere. After two months I feel like we’re doing very well,” Maksym, the administrator of the Offensive. said.

The bar already has its particular audience — the military, students and young professionals of the creative industries, some actors and painters — typical habitants of the Podil district of Kyiv, popular with its cultural places.

And war-related naming is not a rarity in Ukraine these days, too. There’s another restaurant named after Bayraktar, a type of Turkish drone, and cafe Javelin, named after an American anti-tank weapon. There are cocktails called Himars, another American game-changer that has helped the Ukrainian forces.

Such features set a patriotic mood at the establishment and attract customers, but most businesses that use such branding — from small to large companies — have pledged to donate to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

SHARE NOW