Leonid Ostaltsev: “My job is to make sure that veterans are comfortable in their new life as civilians”
Leonid Ostaltsev is one of the most famous militarymen. He is the founder of Pizza Veterano, a well-known restaurant in Kyiv. Leonid is always busy. He has plenty of work to do and sticks to his motto “Just do it.” He meets visitors at the restaurant, manages personnel and serves as a waiter if needed. Besides, Leonid is the anchor of Army FM radio program, allowing him to share his successful experience as a businessman. According to Leonid, private business not only solves the problem of unemployment among former fighters, but also serves as some kind of therapy. Businessmen have no time for gloomy thoughts. When Leonid returned from the front, he and his friends decided to organize the Union of Desnyansky District ATO Veterans to keep themselves busy and help their war buddies. After months of travelling and interaction with former fighters, Leonid is convinced that unemployment is one of the key problems of ATO veterans. Some of them were laid off while serving in the military, some could not stand working at the previous place after their return. Some employers refuse to hire former fighters. Leonid had worked in pizzerias before the war. He was good at cooking and had experience as a chef. Thus, he decided to launch a project of a restaurant chain that employs veterans as a place of mutual understanding among the personnel. Leonid spent quite a lot of time developing his business plan and looking for money. Finally, he launched the project. Currently, his pizza restaurant employs at least 50% of former fighters and sends part of the revenues to help the wounded fighters. Leonid makes his employees develop a business plan. In such a way, each of his subordinates will be able to launch a private business after working at his place. Leonid believes that it contributes to the adjustment of fighters. He also demands them to visit psychologist every week. Leonid's pizza restaurant is very popular. It is crowded even on workdays, which is why people have to reserve a table ahead. It is not only in Kyiv that the project is successful. Pizza Veterano in Dnipro also has plenty of visitors. Currently, Leonid and his war buddies are developing the association of ATO veterans-entrepreneurs to support each other and overcome difficulties together. They want to engage municipal authorities in one of the projects. The idea is to introduce a program of business licenses for ATO veterans to open, say, mobile coffee shops. According to Ostaltsev, instead of Soviet-style benefits, the state should create opportunities for people to earn money themselves. The idea is based on the American program supporting veterans of the Vietnam War: it distributed the key places for street vendors among former combatants. Helping ATO fighters is not Leonid's only goal. “Many people think of ATO veterans as people with illegal guns or alcoholics with God knows what on their mind,” Leonid notes. He wants to dispel this stereotype and prove that fighters are people of solid character and great potential. All they need is to be guided into realizing this potential in civilian life. This is what Leonid himself has managed to do.