The employees of Babushka’s are mainly from Russia and Ukraine. Being open during the conflict hasn’t been easy.
In the heart of the city, the doors of Babushka’s Hyde Park remain open. Staff says they’re standing with Ukraine, despite getting heat from the community.
“This location was an opportunity to move the culture also to downtown. Since we have big communities here from Russia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Ukraine, this is something. This is the place where we wanted them to feel like at home,” said Andrey, a business partner of the restaurant.
Now while the Russia, Ukraine war grows, a Ukrainian flag flies outside of the Russian restaurant. The sign next to it asks for peace.
TONIGHT ON NIGHTSIDE: Supporting #Ukraine no matter the country. I take you to a #Russian restaurant that’s open despite the #RussiaUkraineWar. They’re speaking out after getting some backlash from the community. Hear their message of love and peace at 11 @10TampaBay pic.twitter.com/fY15m7gCu3— Angelina Salcedo (@AngelinaWTSP) March 3, 2022
“Even though we’re Russian people, we don’t have to support the government,” Kirill Chemodanov, the owner of the restaurant said.
Kirill is Russian while Andrey is Ukrainian. Being open during the conflict hasn’t been easy.
“I have a lot of relatives in Ukraine right now, hiding from the bombs and my own country bombing them is heartbreaking for me. I think that us being associated with that is wrong in general, but I mean, there is really not nothing much we can do,” Chemodanov said.
They say they’ve received comments from people in the community since the attacks started.
“They think that if we’re open as a Russian restaurant that we’re responsible for actions being done and if we support innocent people that met consequences of war, somebody thinks that’s wrong,” Andrey said.
The restaurant really has seen it all, from social media comments to people actually calling in to cancel their reservation, but still, their stance remains strong. They’re putting fliers on tables asking people to donate to Ukraine.
“A lot of people in the U.S. think if you’re Russian, you support the government. And, as a Russian myself, I completely disagree with the government section. I think what Putin is doing is a crime against humanity, and he should be stopped,” Chemodanov said.
That’s why their support won’t stop during this time.
“We made it clear in our social media that our message is peace, no war and family love and culture,” Andrey said.
If you’d like to support the restaurant, you can here.