Two side by side images, the left image displaying traditional Ukrainian garments and textiles and the right image showing plates of Ukrainian dishes from the Veselka Restaurant.

Grandlife guide

Supporting Ukraine Through Its NYC Roots

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A list of our favorite Ukrainian spots in a city that boasts the largest Ukrainian population in the country. 

New York City is home to over 150,000 Ukrainians with a vast majority of these residents living in an area of the East Village once lovingly called, “Little Ukraine”. After WWII, a mass Ukrainian immigration occurred with the majority of Ukrainians settling on 7th Street between 1st and 3rd Ave. After the war, the Ukrainian population in that area topped 60,000 residents. And while the nickname “Little Ukraine” is now mostly lost, the East Village still boasts some of the most visible Ukrainian architecture and culture in the city today. 

One way to support our Ukrainian friends and neighbors during this devastating time is to support their businesses. In that spirit, we’ve rounded up a list of some of our favorite Ukrainian spots in a city that boasts the largest Ukrainian population in the country. 

Arka

Arka is a beautiful little store located in the heart of the East Village. Opened in 1951 by Ukrainian immigrants Roman Porytko and Jaroslav Pastushenko, Arka has long been dedicated to its Eastern European roots. Located in the middle of Little Ukraine, Arka is one of the last remaining places in Manhattan that sells traditional Ukrainian clothing, folk art, jewelry, woodwork, sculptures, antiques, pottery, glassware and so much more. 

Since the war in Ukraine began in February, Arka’s sales have massively increased with NYC residents flocking to the shop and buying out its entire stock of Ukrainian flags. And while business had been dwindling in recent years, Arka found a new life in the city’s renewed awareness of the importance of Ukrainian culture. Everything at Arka has been acquired directly from the owner’s visits to Ukraine, attending bazaars to find arts and crafts brought back to the East Village for sale in the shop. If you’re looking for authentic Ukrainian goods in the city, there is no better place to visit. 

89 East 2nd Street corner, 1st Ave., New York; T. (212) 473 3550

 

 

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Veselka

A beloved NYC staple located directly in the center of Little Ukraine, Veselka is a no-brainer. Serving traditional Ukrainian food since 1954, with a mostly-Ukrainian staff, Veselka is universally loved and not just for its famous Borscht. Before the pandemic, Veselka was open 24/7 and was just as loved for its daytime pierogi-and-coffee dates as it was for its after-midnight, post-party sustenance. 

After Russia invaded Ukraine, the iconic diner instantly became a focal point for New Yorkers looking for a gathering spot to share their support for the Ukrainian people. Currently, 100 percent of the profits from all Borscht sales will go to Razom for Ukraine to support humanitarian needs. Additionally, a drop-off point for donations has been set up at their 9th Street entrance with a list of most-needed donations available on their website

144 2nd Ave, New York; T. (212) 228 9682

 

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The Ukrainian Museum

Just three blocks from Veselka, The Ukrainian Museum is said to be the largest museum dedicated to the cultural heritage of people from Ukraine. The museum’s collection of Ukrainian folk art is one of the most well-documented outside Ukraine itself. With historical attire from various regions of Ukraine, ceramics, jewelry and an outstanding collection of Ukrainian Easter eggs called “pysanky”, visiting the museum is one way to educate yourself on the rich cultural history of the country. 

The museum also boasts a large fine art collection with nearly all works created in the United States by famed sculptor Chereshnovsky. And, while you’re there, be sure to check out the historical archive, which includes an impressive collection of rare photographs documenting the past one hundred years of Ukrainian immigration to the United States. 

Today, the museum has been active in boosting awareness of community events, protests and demonstrations aimed at supporting Ukraine. For news of upcoming events, visit the website or Instagram.

222 E 6th St, New York; T. (212) 228 0110

 

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KGB Bar

Before it was the East Village literary haunt it is today, the soviet-themed KGB Bar was the location of a private social club for Ukrainian Socialists. The club originally opened in response to the rampant McCarthyism of the 1950s, ultimately running from 1948 to 1988. Operated by The Ukrainian-American league, the organization continued to operate out of the building’s basement well after the club’s closure and into the late ’90s. 

In 1993, KGB Bar opened having taken its inspiration from the Soviet-era memorabilia stored within the building. With multiple literary nights per week spanning from poetry to fiction and everything in between, the venue has been voted “Best Literary Venue” by The Village Voice, New York Magazine and appears on countless other literary go-to lists. 

Today, the bar honors its Ukrainian roots by standing in solidarity with Ukraine. Following the invasion, KGB Bar has focused on selling Ukranian-made beer Obolon. They also replaced all vodka with Khor, Shevkoff and Ukrainian Heritage–all of which are made in Ukraine. And while the effort is symbolic, the venue has ventured to host readings and musical events aimed at providing resources to aid Ukrainians. 

85 E 4th St, New York; T. (347) 441 4481

The Ukrainian Institute of America

Located in the Harry F. Sinclair House–a Gilded Age mansion all the way up on 79th Street and Fifth Avenue–The Ukrainian Institute of America is quite the field trip for those looking to stay closer to downtown’s Little Ukraine. But while the stunning French Renaissance style of the space itself would surely be worth a trip on its own, The Ukrainian Institute boasts carefully curated exhibitions as well as a museum of Ukrainian history and art worth the subway ride. 

The Ukrainian Institute of America is a non-profit founded by businessman William Dzus, a Ukrainian immigrant who found success and freedom in America. Seeking to acquaint his adopted country with the rich cultural history of his homeland, he established the institute in 1948 and in 1955, purchased the Harry F. Sinclair house. Since then, The Ukrainian Institute of America has been dedicated to promoting an appreciation of Ukraine’s rich cultural history and accomplishments through art exhibits, concerts, film screenings, poetry readings, literary events and educational programming. 

Today, as Ukraine works toward maintaining its independence as a democratic nation, The Ukrainian Institute continues to pursue the dream of its founder by serving as America’s “Window on Ukraine” and sharing resources on how you help #standwithUkraine on their website.

2 E 79th St, New York; T. (212) 288 8660

Blintz Box

The youngest on our list, Blintz Box is a newly-opened Ukrainian eatery in Columbus Circle. Its original incarnation was born in 2016, by husband-and-wife team The Ilyayevs. Having started as a street food pop-up, the eatery originally went by the name “Taste of Ukraine”. Specializing in Perogies and, yes, Blintzes, Taste of Ukraine sold throughout the food fairs of NYC for four years before finding a permanent home as “Blintz Box” at the Turnstyle Underground Market in 2020.

Like most small businesses in the city, Blintz Box was hit hard by the pandemic in the year it opened but, very much in keeping with the spirit of the Ukrainian people, they persevered. Today, Blintz Box stands strong, offering authentic Ukrainian cuisine with an American twist. And in light of the current conflict, Blintz Box has offered to match any in-store donation made to the Ukrainian charities listed on their website

1000s 8th Ave, New York; T. (646) 644 6214

WORDS Hillary Sproul

 

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