Leonid Ostalt­sev: “My job is to make sure that veter­ans are com­fort­able in their new life as civil­ians”

The Ukrainian Week - - SOCIETY -

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.

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