'We Will Do This Until Our Victory': Kyiv Kitchen Makes 1,500 Meals Per Day

Artur Gabovich vows to keep feeding Kyiv residents until his fellow countrymen succeed in combat against Russia.

Gabovich, a former scientist-turned-businessman, was born in Ukraine and has spent all five decades of his life there. He is a co-owner of the Campus Community A-Hotel in Kyiv's city center, which opened two years ago and prior to the Russian invasion provided a unique hotel experience accommodating 260 people at a price of $10-15 per night, per bed.

But the invasion flipped the hotel's script upside down, just like most else across Ukraine. Now, Gabovich and a number of employees and associates spend their time making about 1,500 meals daily for individuals in shelters, in hospitals and to military members who are on the frontlines 24-7.

In total, between meals prepared in Gabovich's hotel and those made by an association of restaurants in Kyiv, he said approximately 30,000 meals are currently being distributed.

Campus Hotel
The Campus Community A-Hotel in Kyiv used to be strictly a hotel business, but the Russian invasion has turned the business into a full-time kitchen making 1,500 meals per day. Co-owner Artur Gabovich said the meals are for individuals in shelters, in hospitals and to military members who are on the frontlines. Artur Gabovich

"As soon as invasion starts, there's no tourist business at all and we start doing lunches," Gabovich told Newsweek. "We get food, prepare lunches and put them into lunch boxes and deliver them to locations."

The meals are made from food provided by various Kyiv-based warehouses and restaurants. Gabovich said school and shop closures have caused him and others to reassess how to provide citizens with sustenance. Sirens and bombings are routine, though he added that his property contains an underground shelter area for refuge.

There were between 15 and 20 people involved in this particular operation, including 10-12 individuals in a limited-space kitchen. Big pots of food are made and portioned, then separated and placed into boxes that are put in plastic bags and delivered around the large city—which Gabovich said is "not like New York or Los Angeles" in size, though distance for deliveries can extend as far as 50 miles and must be planned out in advance.

"Half of the country are working and borders are open," he said, saying the central and western parts of Kyiv continue to function and not everything is bombed or destroyed. "Although sometimes there are rockets firing over them and bombing, people are working."

Campus Hotel
Food is prepared in large pots provided by local restaurants and warehouse-style sources, put into boxes, then placed into plastic bags for deliveries around Kyiv. Donations provided through companies have helped subsidize meal costs. Artur Gabovich

The situation currently remains "more or less stable," although Gabovich said he has to plan for different scenarios. For example, he said vehicles will soon need repair in the form of new tires, oil and filter changes due to rocky road conditions. He also talked to associates in Turkey and Germany to help provide more resources, such as plastic to transport the vast amount of meals being delivered via vehicles.

He personally has family still in Ukraine, but they have migrated out of Kyiv for safety.

"I've never been in war places before," he said. "I saw some countries after the war but never in the middle of the warfare. Now, bombs are falling and hear it all the time, sound of bombing. [P]eople get used to the situation. Unfortunately, people get used to this. It's much easier when you're doing something instead of doing something and just thinking about it."

Gabovich said donations provided through companies like Airbnb have helped subsidize meal costs. A spokesperson for Airbnb told Newsweek that financial support was provided to Gabovich's hotel from guests around the world who booked stays without any intention of staying in Ukraine, rather than from Airbnb itself.

On Wednesday the company's founders pledged to match up to $10 million in donations to the company through March, mainly to support refugee housing for those fleeing war-torn Ukraine.

Gabovich said the meals began being made on the third or fourth day of the Russian invasion, where everything quickly closed and "nobody knew what to do." All he knew was that people needed help and that smaller cities were targets of swift demolition.

Some days, he spends five or six hours driving due to security checkpoints and negotiations related to bulk food purchases and deliveries.

"We will do this until our victory," he said. "I'm sure we will win because our army is very motivated, they stand still. We are fighting with the empire of evil. We protect whole Europe today."

To make donations toward meals, visit the hotel's website at help.a-hotel.com.ua/en.

Updated 03/16/2022, at 12:38 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.