McDonald’s reopening in Ukraine is a reminder of life before the war: NPR

Many in Ukraine aren’t fazed by the news that Russia is mobilizing 300,000 troops — and instead head to the newly reopened McDonald’s.


Russia today announced the mobilization of up to 300,000 reservists for the war in Ukraine. But as NPR’s Julian Hayda reports from Kyiv, many aren’t fazed by the news and are instead heading to the reopened McDonald’s in the Ukrainian capital.

JULIAN HAYDA, BYLINE: Every Ukrainian of a certain age remembers when the first McDonald’s opened in the Soviet Union in 1990. Although a meal there cost half a day’s pay, American burgers cost hundreds, as this news report shows. time.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: (spoken in non-English).

HAYDA: “I thought they wanted to launch nuclear missiles at us, but instead they gave us McDonald’s and peace,” says the boy who crashes the Coca-Cola. Like blue jeans and chewing gum, the arrival of McDonald’s signaled the end of the Soviet Union. In its wake, it seemed that the newly independent states—especially Russia and Ukraine—could easily embrace democracy and Western culture. But Russia took a different path, becoming increasingly authoritarian under President Vladimir Putin. As for Ukraine, it was caught between Russia and the West. Then, that winter, Russia invaded. Like the Soviet Union, the Kremlin is isolated again, and the Western sanctions imposed due to the war meant that McDonald’s was pulled out of the country.

YAROSLAV HOLOVATENKO: (Non-English spoken).

HAYDA: “I hope McDonald’s never goes back to Russia. They deserve it,” says Yaroslav Holovatenko, holding his Quarter Pounder in a cold, rainy park. He’s holding onto that burger very tightly because McDonald’s also left Ukraine at the start of the war, although he doesn’t blame foreign companies for not wanting to put their workers at risk in a war zone. Three branches in Kyiv reopened for delivery on Tuesday, a sign that the threat here appears to be over. Dozens of people camp out in front of restaurants and let delivery drivers fill their orders for them. A large number of guys have updated their iPhone to get…

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English spoken).

HAYDA: …Three Big Mac combo meals, a Quarter Pounder, four McFlurries, worth about $30, or about two days’ wages in Ukraine. Some waited up to 3 hours for their food. I asked Holovatenko if he felt the same way people did when McDonald’s opened in these parts three decades ago.

HOLOVATENKO: (Spoken in non-English).

HAYDA: “We weren’t alive then,” he says. “But we all know about that, and that’s the way it was meant to be.” He and his friends trudged all the way across town to the reopened branches. It’s a reminder of life before the war and what they still stand to lose if Russia wins. By Julian Hayda, NPR News, Kyiv.


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