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You're reading: Nationalists try to close Lebanese café in heart of Kyiv
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Linas, a café serving Lebanese cuisine in central Kyiv, is open again after Ukrainian nationalists tried to have it closed.

Indeed the business, on Bessarabska Square at 5, Velyka Vesylkivska Street, seemed to be attracting more people than ever on May 23, as news circulated in the city about the attempt to close it down.

Some 50 people led by the head of the nationalistic non-government organization “National-Patriotic Movement of Ukraine” Mykhaylo Kovalchuk attempted to close Linas on May 21 because it “has none of the required documents for operations” and “is breaking Ukrainian law” because the staff can’t speak Ukrainian, according to Kovalchuk.

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Glad to see that this story is covered (more or less) fairly. The "knee-jerk" reaction is to disparage any group that protests an establishment's policy or practice on ethnic issues as "xenophobic". But "xenophobia" connotes hostility, rather than simply insistence on respect for the lawful ethnic rights of the citizen. Just as Russian citizens (or any citizens) would object to being served in a restaurant in Moscow by a staff that does not speak Russian, Ukrainians have a right to protest being served by Russian -speakers, especially when they are now at war with Russia and had been forced, under Russian domination, to give up their native language.

As a Ukrainian-speaker who has been traveling to Ukraine for 20 years, it was a very frustrating., irritating, and, at times, a downright humiliating and offensive experience trying to get service in Ukraine from people whom I could not understand, and from menus I could not read because they only were printed in Russian, only spoke Russian, or refused to speak Ukrainian. It is about time that those who want to do business in Ukraine's capital learn to speak the language of the country in which they hope to profit.....especially if they are guests in that country, as the Lebanese owners may be. .

James Canchela

Well isn't that the most moronic comment I've read today. Just because the Russian people demand such does make it proper. Actually, wouldn't it mean such demands are improper.
If you don't like the service then leave. If you can't read the menu, hopefully they have pictures you can point too. If all that's not enough for you, then leave.

You seem to misinterpret my comments about Russians not willing to go to restaurants in which the menu and the service is exclusively in Ukrainian. It is not improper. It is the rational thing to do. Why should they have to order in a language that is not familiar to them? They should expect, at least, a dual-language menu and staff ...just like Americans do when they go to Mexican restaurants in the U.S.

When I go to a London restaurant I expect to have an English menu and a waiter who can, at least - even if with a thick accent - take my order in English. When I go to a Paris restaurant, I don't have such expectations. The only exception is when I go to the Arab part of Paris, where most tourists or even French citizens don't set foot, then I expect to run into language problems.

Why should a Ukrainian or an Ukrainian speaker possibly expect less? If Ukrainians are generally bi-lingual as regards the Russian language, and if they chose to converse in Russian with their Russian-speaking waiter, then that is their right to do so. But if Ukrainians - even if they know Russian - go to the center of the nation's capital and choose to look at an Ukrainian menu and to place their orders in Ukrainian, but the restaurant fails to provide that option., then they should not frequent that restaurant, or, as in this case, solicit public support in changing the manner in which the restaurant serves the public. That is what this group is doing - asserting their right to let potential customers know what to expect. This done all the time in western countries. Had I been traveling in Kyiv these last few days and took note of this group's complaint about the restaurant's service, I would have agreed, and considered myself a better informed consumer. Some call it xenophobia, I call it the public's right to know. Some title their article with a sensationalist headline of "attempting to close", I see it as a legitimate - perhaps long overdue boycott - of those establishments that are still stuck in their imperial past.

There is another factor here that commentators like you either fail to understand or don't care about it one way or the other. Russian is the language of the centuries-long oppressor and of the the current enemy responsible for thousands of Ukrainian deaths and the invasion and annexation of Crimea. In that respect it is unlike any other language as it relates to Ukrainians. While it is both unwise and counterproductive to force people to use any language other than the language of their choice, public places catering to a predominantly Ukrainian clientele in Ukraine's capital should not use the language of that oppressor to the exclusion of Ukrainian. That is as offensive to many Ukrainians as the playing of Wagner (Hitler's favorite composer) in Israel was to a great many Israeli citizens and was banned by the Israeli government in the years following the Holocaust. With the passage of time and as memories of the Holocaust dimmed this sentiment greatly diminished. Ukrainians have every reason to resist the language of their oppressor who not only ravished and persecuted Ukraine for centuries but are still doing that in areas it occupies.

But then there are those who analyze these issues in simplistic terms. I hope the Lebanese proprietor (if he/she is Lebanese) learns a little about the history and sensitivities of the citizens they service in public places, or accept the consequences, including public protests. It is a pleasure to see Ukrainians (at long last) peacefully asserting public pressure on commercial establishments.

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