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Iryna, sells pumpkins at the Zhytnyi Market

The material was created within the framework of the "Life of War" project with the support of the Public Interest Journalism Lab and the Institute of Humanities (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen).

If you visit the Zhytnyi Market in autumn, you should have seen a bright location with physalis and pumpkins of various sizes and colors. Throughout the year, Iryna sells something seasonal: flowers, vegetables, Christmas trees, and most of all, she looks forward to autumn - the pumpkin festival. Iryna tells the “Humans of Kyiv” team about various experiences with customers and why she likes Zhytnyi Market.

My grandmother's sister, my father's aunt, moved to America during the Second World War and often visited us, so I spent my childhood under the sign of Halloween. Here, no one celebrated it and did not know it. In general, it all started with the fact that once on Halloween, I cut Jack-o'-lanterns (a pumpkin lantern with slits in the shape of eyes and a mouth with a candle inside, the name Jack is associated with the Irish legend of a stingy man, who found no place either in hell or on earth - ZK) and before seven, when it was already dark, I was standing here in the market near the counters. I came again the next Halloween and even wore a long dress. Cars stopped, and people were shocked. They couldn’t understand what was going on here. Then this holiday became more popular, and there were more opportunities.

Pumpkin holiday

I've been selling pumpkins on Zhytny for the sixth season. I'm decorating my place as a location that has become a famous local place for photos. The front pages of magazines like Cosmopolitan are all done here. If it's a professional shoot, I even allow you to move the pumpkins and cover them with bags or shoes. Everything is simple - you give me money and go to take pictures. I allowed free photos during the quarantine because no one had money.

We had one tricky blogger who used to go here and pretend that he would not use these photos anywhere. He tells me that I am a mercantile person, and I tell him that we have two tons of pumpkins here and that he moves everything and pays nothing! And someone comes and does not even ask if it is possible to take a picture here. I'm not selling air. I'm not selling a location, I'm selling a product. And please treat it politely. To honor those who raised all this.

One Odessa resident came to take a photo with a child, I gave the child a pumpkin and didn't say anything to them. There is always a balance in this life - the next day, they came with the company, loaded three cars of this beauty.

We had a crow here, she used to steal cigarettes. Once a man passes by and asks if he can buy a crow too. I say: come on! We need her too! Who sells such a crow?

She heard everything, stole about 5 hryvnias, and brought it here to me. But someone stole her. She was as smart as me. Exactly my copy! Spoons, forks, documents - she needed everything. And she loved to be in the photographs.

Once on Halloween, a father comes with his son and resents: "What, some pumpkin for 25 hryvnias?" And I told him: "Well, if it's expensive for you, take it here for free" (I have older pumpkins that I give to people or animals for free). He said again: "What? Am I going to take a rotten pumpkin?” I see that the little boy is upset, and you can't upset children, you have to buy the child everything they like, so I had to educate the parent and give a pumpkin to the child.

And I also hear mom and dad talking: “Let's take this pumpkin and bring it to our friends, put it on the fireplace.” And their little daughter asks: "What, we won't have Halloween?". And I immediately take and give her a small pumpkin so that it is her personal one. And that's it, the situation is solved.

Last year, I did a master class on carving pumpkins, and parents specially brought their children. Some children grew up with me and with these pumpkins, such as little Klara - she came with her dad, she really liked the pumpkins and asked to buy them too. They came in winter - and I already have Christmas trees, Klara stopped and said: "Look, the pumpkins have turned into Christmas trees!" We laughed so hard. The eighth of March passed, and I said: "Look, the Christmas trees have already turned into tulips!" Well, now she has already become such a “grown up woman", she is seven years old.

What I sell depends on the season. There were flowers before I started to sell pumpkins. I sold juniper twigs and made compositions, there were 19 varieties of lavender, and now there are white, pink, and lemon. But the most driving and exciting topic is autumn, with pumpkins.

This year we have both red and white pumpkins. Solomons are such white-white pumpkins on the outside that are red on the inside. Faces are simply scratched on them and not cut out because they are already very impressive. There were always pink French pumpkins, but this year nobody planted them, the field was in the trenches. Pumpkins are grown in various regions, but the Makariv district is the main one. Now there is nothing on that field, there were battles. Next year will be different, every year is different.


From the beginning of the war, I was in Kyiv all the time until March 7. I was dealing with products, selling from a truck in the district. When I came here with tulips in March, at first, we were not allowed to sell them here.

People said that they saw me and thought: well, if our Ira is already here, then we should go back.

We have a group of people here with whom we became friends, many of them stayed and did a lot to win. Some people want to adapt here, but it doesn't work out.

There was a lot of work in May, and there was no hope that there would be a pumpkin festival, but even without this enthusiasm, everything was planted. The main thing is that we did not give up. I believe that now there is no trade, only human relations remain, and the buyer and the seller become equal. When I see that the teachers take pumpkins to the kindergarten, I say that all pumpkins cost 10 hryvnias each so that they can get more of these orange giants for their planned amount. Then other people will come, calmly pay the total price, and everything will pay off, so I'm not sorry at all. I absolutely trust the buyers, so I manage everything. People value trust so much that when they see that nobody counts how many gifts of nature they chose, they like it very much.

Once I was offered to go abroad, but I weighed all the pros and cons and stayed because I find this sincerity only here, and I appreciate it very much. Even moments of defeat I want to share with loved ones, I feel good here.

No one works on Zhytnyi, everyone is resting. It's like a small festival here every year. And we shrunk a bit, and in the quarantine year, our location was here for the entire ground. They offered me a free transfer to the "Gulliver" shopping center and were ready to make a trading platform, a location. But I didn’t want to go anywhere. Here there is a life, a movement.

People often ask me why I make such a significant location at Podil - because there will be more and more of us, and the location's size determines our success. This year, we just have to work. There is no goal to earning money. My goal is to create an environment for mutual gratitude. The holiday is actually preparation for the holiday. It has already begun!

The material was created by:



Bohdana Horban

Hanna Pastushyna



Sofiia Kotovych

Oleksandra Onoprienko

Transcriber and translator:

Tonya Smyrnova


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