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KYIV, Ukraine – After seven months of war, McDonald’s has reopened in Ukraine.
The US fast food chain temporarily closed more than 100 of its Ukrainian locations on February 24, the day Russia invaded, citing employee safety.
Three venues reopened on Tuesday, welcoming war-weary Ukrainians under the warm glow of golden arches. Regular citizens and high government officials alike come to take selfies with their Big Macs and eat food they haven’t been able to enjoy for months.
“It’s a nice gift from McDonald’s,” says Yaroslav Holovetenko, as he grabs a large and tasty — a quarter-pounder — at a McDonald’s in a cold and rainy park in Pozniaki, the outlying neighborhood of the capital Kyiv. Near all three.
Holovetenko and his friends have come from the other side of the city, across the Dnipro River. But this pilgrimage to McDonald’s is much more than a crosstown trek. It’s also about nostalgia – and hope for the future.
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“When the war started, no one was thinking about McDonald’s, but now that things are back to normal, it’s nice to have some comfort food,” he says.
According to Mayor Vitaly Klitschko, since the retreat of the Russians from Kyiv’s suburbs in April, about 3 million people have returned to the city.
McDonald’s senior vice president Paul Pomroy posted on the company’s Ukrainian Instagram page in August, “In recent months, we have become convinced that our reopening will bring a small, vital, sense of normalcy back to Ukraine. ” “The leaders of Ukraine have said that returning to work is the best way for foreign companies to support the local economy and the Ukrainian nation.”
And Holovetenko is not taking this food lightly.
He is originally from Donetsk, which is set to hold a referendum – along with three other Russian-occupied territories – this weekend on whether to be part of the Russian Federation. If Russia occupies these territories, it means that Donetsk will not even have McDonald’s. The chain has closed all of its locations in Russia, where the local franchise has replaced McDonald’s with a very subtle knock.
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With McDonald’s new locations in Ukraine, there’s a catch: Customers can only order through delivery apps; There is no indoor dining. It’s also competitive, with the cottage industry cropping up on Ukraine’s version of Craigslist for McDonald’s orders.
Outside a branch, dozens of people are camping in the rain, waiting for three hours to order their food through a delivery app ahead of time – while others completely refresh their phones, placing an order. to get a chance.
Meanwhile, delivery drivers buzz in and out of restaurants, carrying coveted orders in their arms like precious newborn babies.
Ukraine’s main ride share company says restaurants at open McDonald’s malls have risen 20% to 30% since the reopening.
Maxim Khadav, one of the delivery drivers, says, “It’s early. I pick up the order, deliver to the sidewalk and repeat.” “I get the appeal, but it’s just the food.”
That said, he is proud to be the first driver in line for pickup at the Aladdin Mall location. He estimates that around 300 couriers were queuing behind him.
Every Ukrainian of a certain age remembers when the first McDonald’s was opened in the Soviet Union in 1990. Even though food costs half a day’s salary, hundreds of Americans stand in Moscow for burgers.
A news report at the time said a boy, “I thought they wanted to launch nuclear rockets at us, but they gave us McDonald’s and peace.”
Holovetenko says the reopening of McDonald’s in Kyiv feels like a younger generation’s version of what happened in 1990. With long lines comes the hope of a free and democratic future.