24 FOR 24

Day 5

The name Pasternak is no stranger to controversy. 

Nobel Prize-winning Author Boris Pasternak’s body of work included Doctor Zhivago, which was banned in the Soviet Union because of its negative portrayal of life under the Soviet system. As the war broke out in 2022, the Berlin restaurant bearing the same name found itself dealing with a new controversy they never saw coming.

“During the first week of the war, we had many bookings canceled and saw people who were not necessarily customers making a stand against us online because we serve Russian food,” Pasternak’s owner Ijla Kaplan told Al Jazeera. “People were leaving one-star reviews and comments simply saying they opposed the war and nothing about the quality of the food.”

The company took a strong anti-war position from the outset, issuing a statement on their website that highlighted the diversity of the staff and the unity within the team, which includes people from Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Romania, Georgia, Argentina, Spain and France.

“Not once in 30 years have we had a situation where we have been drawn into a conflict on ethnic grounds. We work together, try to create a good atmosphere and inspire our guests,” the company said. “We share the opinion that one country’s aggression against another country is unacceptable in our modern society.”

Kaplan believes that within the Russian diaspora in Berlin, many Russians support Ukraine but are scared to voice their opinions. 

Today’s #24for24 recognizes the members of the Russian diaspora like Ijla Kaplan, who are willing to push past their fears to stand for freedom, equality, and justice. And against war.

Read the full story here.