Russia-Ukraine War

Russian Tea Time in Downtown Chicago Faces Backlash From Customers Amid Ukraine Invasion

NBC Universal, Inc.

A Chicago restaurant is facing backlash from the public following the Ukraine invasion, with owners of the establishment saying that customers mistakenly thinking that the business has ties to Russia, given its name.

The owners of Russian Tea Time tell NBC 5 they’ve been fielding criticism from customers ever since the conflict between Russia and Ukraine flared earlier this year, with Russian forces invading the country.

“There were a couple phone calls from both American and Ukrainian concerned customers who said 'we will not come to your place anymore,'” said owner Vadim Muchnik.

Since the start of the Ukraine invasion, the owner said they’ve been getting a lot of harassing phone calls and hateful messages from people thinking they’re part of the government.

“We had a couple of posts that were very disturbing. One had the one-star (review) and said 'death to Russia,' and another one that was very upsetting said 'one star, this place is a dump,'” he said.

Muchnik said the messages are hurtful considering the fact that this family is actually Ukrainian. His mom started the restaurant almost 30 years ago after immigrating to Chicago from Ukraine.

“They’re kinda misdirecting their frustrations at the businesses that have no direct connections to the Putin regime or to the politics,” he said.

The restaurant is considered a culinary landmark in the city, serving a blend of eastern European, central Asian, and Russian cuisines. Many of the staff members still have relatives in Ukraine.

“Our hearts are broken for the Ukrainian people for the refugees,” he said. “We have a mother of one of our waiters who is in Kyiv hiding in the bomb shelters and about two days ago our colleague lost contact with her mom.”

The owner said he condemns the actions of Vladimir Putin and supports Ukraine. He just hopes that people take the time to hear their story before grouping and judging them for the actions of one man, who they have no connections with.

“Please understand xenophobia and bigotry is very real,” he said. “It could turn very quickly into the ugly situation where certain groups are ostracized. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past.”

The restaurant posted this statement on its website days after the invasion standing with Ukraine:

"Dear RTT patrons and friends,
We are heartbroken by the recent news; our thoughts and prayers are with those who are affected by this inhumane and despicable invasion. We do not support politics of the Russian government. We support human rights, freedom of speech, and fair democratic elections.

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