Ukrainian bistro staffed by refugees opens in Prague

Bistro Vltava, featuring Ukrainian delicacies made by four refugees from Kyiv, is now open in Prague 4's Podolí district by the Vltava river.

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky Published on 03.04.2022 14:15:00 (updated on 08.04.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

A new restaurant serving up Ukrainian specialties has opened in Prague 4's Podolí district by the Vltava River. Bistro Vltava is staffed by four refugees who fled Kyiv during the Russian invasion of Ukraine and is located at the new Sauny Vltava complex adjacent to popular Prague recreational destination Žluté lázně.

The new restaurant cooks up Ukrainian delicacies such as varenyky (boiled dumplings) stuffed with sweet (blueberry, strawberry, or quark) or savory (sheep cheese, meat, or potato) fillings, potato pancakes stuffed with mushrooms or cabbage, and several types of Ukrainian borscht.

"Ukrainian cuisine is tasty, rich, and very diverse," says Daria, who worked in the restaurant industry in Kyiv while studying economics and medicine at university, and now cooks at Bistro Vltava. "Vegetarians, meat-eaters, and fish lovers all have options."

While entrance to Sauny Vltava runs 350 crowns, the restaurant can also be accessed at street level by passers-by without entering the relaxation complex.

Employees at the relaxation center have been teaching their new colleagues Czech language skills, Eden Praha CEO Jan Beneš, who operates Sauny Vltava, told local media. While capacity at the kitchen is currently sufficient, Beneš didn't rule out hiring additional Ukrainian staff in case of increased interest.

The restaurant could also offer Ukrainian meals through Prague's delivery services, or set up dispensing points at other areas of the city, Beneš added.

The Sauny Vltava complex itself opened in December, and accommodates guests with saunas, massage rooms, breathing workshops, and other relaxation options. All-day access runs 350 crowns; because the new venue needs to provide food and drink options for guests staying multiple hours, the operators thought of multiple options.

"We considered different variants and the war in Ukraine entered into that," Beneš says. "With my colleague Filip Dušek, it occurred to us to offer the kitchen space to Ukrainian refugees, women who have experience in the food industry."

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An estimated 300,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled to the Czech Republic since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February. The Czech government is preparing to accommodate up to 600,000 Ukrainian refugees as a result of the current crisis, according to Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan.

According to previous estimates, more than half of the incoming refugees are children, and around 80 percent of the adults are women. Under a special exemption issued by the Czech government, the refugees do not need to wait for a work permit to be employed in the Czech Republic.

Bistro Vltava has been officially open to all guests since last week. More information about the new restaurant and its Ukrainian chefs can be found on its Facebook page.

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