Last week, the Kyiv Multi-National Rotary Club met in Kupidon, one of my favorite bars in the city. Kupidon is steeped in art, activism, and even revolution. Maidan protesters and other activists before and after have organized here. Walk down the steps into Kupidon, and you will see a Ukrainian language library on your left. Walk to your right past the bar and art work, and you’ll find the private meeting rooms.
Entering the room where the Rotary Club met and you’ll see a large Georgian flag hanging from the wall. Ukrainians love Georgian food, dance, and wine. I pointed the flag out to a Ukrainian Rotarian and he said “Why not? We are like brothers. They are warm people, who drink a lot and have been through many of the same experiences that we have.”
I then sat down at the table and began talking to the gentleman across from me, a young Iraqi Kurd from Sulaymaniyah who had come to Kyiv for university. We talked a bit about American and Iraqi domestic politics, which are related. Here we were, two migrants, one of whom had come to Ukraine for work and the other for education. After the meeting, we agreed to meet up for shisha some day soon.
An American Rotarian from Florida also joined the meeting. He has supported orphanages in Ukraine for many years. I mentioned to him that my wife and I wanted to adopt in Ukraine and he immediately offered to introduce us to a Ukrainian adoption lawyer he works with. We all met later in the week and learned a great deal from talking to him.
The club is involved in a number of different causes, including supporting families with children who have cerebral palsy. Kyiv has growing craft beer scene. A Danish member is helping the club organize a beer festival to raise funds for cerebral palsy. Given my fondness for craft beer and good causes, I plan on helping out.
Whenever I travel somewhere, whether for a short or extended period of time, Rotary has helped me find people who care about the same things. It’s been a chance to make new friends, get to know the city I live in better, and to find small ways in which to give something back to it.