Pizza Veterano is a special Kyiv pizzeria. It was created by Ukrainian soldiers who came back from the war in Donbas. Since 2015 their mission remains the same: to help other soldiers get back into everyday life.
The US veterans from the NGO NextOp, which is helping American soldiers adjust after combat, met with their Ukrainian counterparts in this pizzeria run by former Ukrainian soldiers.
Donbas veterans and former US marines found common ground in the challenges associated with conforming to life far from the noises of war. And according to Marine veteran and head of Next-Op John Boerstler, Ukraine is making headway but there’s still a lot more that needs to be done:
“Ukraine has only been a country for a short time and has recently been engaged in defending their nation and defending democratic institutions and values so it’s, I think, personally, the most important time to be here, so that we can work together for a better future and help to ensure that veterans are the leaders of these communities when they return to them.”
The program seeks to establish an international long-term partnership between the veterans in order to help them overcome the obstacles they face on a daily basis, from unemployment to relationships. One of their main goals is to give former soldiers the tools to start their own business and become leaders. Pizza Veterano has already been working on these tasks for almost two years: not only does it employ veterans, but also promotes businesses of veterans and assists with opening up franchising locations for the already famous brand. John Boerstler noted of the positive example the business is setting in Ukraine:
“This place is an example where veterans come back to their communities and they’re leaders, they’re business owners, they’re hopefully running for office, you know, they’re effective, they’re proud of what they’ve done and who they’ve served, so I think it’s absolutely important to support veteran-owned businesses, especially those who served in ATO.”
Statistics show there are more than two hundred thousand veterans in Ukraine. The number increases every day as the war rages on in Eastern Ukraine.