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Rufat, owner of Big Mama

Rufat, the owner of Big Mama, tells us how to create the tastiest shawarma in the center of Kyiv and have the respect of your visitors and their sincere love. The facility has a very high rating and 1,500 positive reviews on Google Maps. When you pass Besarabka, you can always see a queue for this place. You order, come in 10 minutes, and pay. They trust you, so nobody asks for money in advance. And sometimes they know your tastes. The "Humans of Kyiv" team highly recommends Big Mama, it's exceptionally delicious ❤️

I come from Azerbaijan, from Baku. I've been here for six years now, came to look at the job opportunities, and I liked it. I fell in love, as they say, with the city, the country, the people. I opened the cafe and stayed here. I was interested in the city of Kyiv. When my father was young, he supported the Lviv football team "Karpaty." He also often went to Kyiv, I saw his photos and really wanted to get here as if all this attracted me.

I love my city, my country, that's for sure, but I love Kyiv as much as my hometown. It became very close to me. I see different people, but most of them are warm people who treat you as one of their own. They are very kind and thankful people. I quickly found friends and understanding here. Never once did I never saw ethnic prejudice toward me, and I did not feel a language barrier. Now I speak Russian, and no one even remarked to me despite the situation. I'm learning Ukrainian and trying to switch to it gradually.

Honestly, I don't go for walks much because of work, but I like Andriyivsky Uzviz, Kontraktova Square, and Khreshchatyk. I also love residential districts, for example, Poznyaki. There are my favorite cafes, restaurants, and shops. It has become a kind of family for me. I don't want to move to the right bank.

I had many opportunities to leave here, some people asked me to work abroad, but I didn't want to leave Kyiv.

Big Mama

My first higher education was economics, I worked in the banking system for half a year, but it turned out not to be for me. My second education was in restaurant management and the hotel business. My father, uncle, and grandfather have always been in the restaurant business. We had our own restaurants, cafes, and family establishments. We were engaged in catering. I’ve been in this racket for 12 years.

We chose this place randomly. My brother and I were looking for a place to fit the format we wanted to create. One day I was passing by and saw that this place was vacant, so we applied. We have been here for six years. And it's been a year since we opened the second point on Borshchagivska Street, 152. It is gradually becoming popular. We have the same food there, there is a hall where you can sit.

The recipes in Big Mama are my own. At first, I cooked, although I am not a cook, but it was always interesting for me, now other people do it. But when there is a need, I cook. We started with American and Mexican cuisine, but we have adapted our food to people's needs over time. We are grateful to those who say our food is delicious and believe in us. It is so nice when people have eaten and then come up and say they came to us from Zhytomyr.

If you have earned the love and trust of people, it is much more valuable than what you earn.

We treat people as our own, that is, not as an object of income, but as guests of our home, that is why we are called Big Mama. We try to make our place feel like home at mom. We love our guests. Customers who have been coming for six years and those who have come for the first time are all special. I know many of my visitors and, without asking them, I can immediately tell what they will order.

I'm here almost every day. First, I love my job. Secondly, I believe that a person who has started doing something should be in the center of this work and watch over it. Quality is important to me, and it does not change. I ensure that the products are right and that we cook correctly. It is essential for me that people come and don’t feel the difference for the worse, but the better, and even better is stability.

​​Each position at our place has its own buyer. For example, I love the "De Hongo" roll: mushrooms, chicken, cheese, sauce, tomatoes, and pickles. I like this combination. Some have been coming and eating the same thing for years. I even offer to change so they don't get bored but don't want to.


I was sleeping at home, there were explosions on the left bank, then an employee called. I didn't believe it until the end, it was unexpected, to be honest. We could expect this meanness on the part of our neighbors because I lived in a country that also faced such aggression. Everyone is afraid of war. I don’t believe those who say that they are not afraid. I didn't go anywhere, I was here with my mother.

We closed on the 24th right away, I even posted an ad saying we would open the next day, I didn't think it would take this long. We had to wait until mid-April, then we started working. Gradually we began to recruit people.

Some came just to support us, I was delighted. I am grateful to them, knowing people's financial capabilities now in their situation.

We will win because we are strong, that's the first thing. Secondly, this is our land, our Motherland. I speak calmly as a Ukrainian, I am also ready to defend the country. I have always said that we never abandon our friends, especially the country where we live and earn, we are grateful to it. I will tell you this as an Azerbaijani. We will win because we love freedom, we are free people. We will never give up, I assure you. Ask any Ukrainian they will not give up and will never live dependent on Russia. We will definitely win.

​The material was created by:

Interviewer and Photographer:


Khrystyna Kulakovska

Hanna Pastushyna



Sofia Kotovych

Natalia Gorda


​Tonya Smyrnova


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