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Ukrainian Spirit Endures in “Veselka”

Written by: Patrick Howard | February 22nd, 2024

Veselka: The Rainbow on the Corner at the Center of the World (Michael Fiore, 2024) 5 out of 5 stars

If you ever visit the popular New York City grub spot, Veselka, you will find a rich and delicious menu of Ukrainian cuisine. Director Michael Fiore (Floyd Norman: An Animated Life) and his cinematographer, Bill Winters, do not hold back on the mouth-watering shots of authentic Ukrainian dishes, like bowls of hot Kapusniak and hand-wrapped pierogis. Another thing you find permeating through the walls of Veselka and the people who work there is the undying loyalty for the loved ones across the Atlantic Ocean who cannot escape the on-going Russian-Ukrainian War.

Veselka is run by the father-and-son duo of Tom and Jason Birchard. It has been a favored eatery in the Little Ukrainian neighborhood of New York City since 1954. Throughout the course of the documentary, we witness the restaurant’s evolution, “from a small newsstand into a 24-hour gathering place, serving up Ukrainian soul food,” as stated in the “about” section of Veselka’s website.

l-r: Jason Birchard and Vitalii Desiatnychenko in VESELKA ©Fiore Media Group

Veselka is not only an important document of the current Russian-Ukrainian War, but a truly compelling and inspiring look into the idea of family legacy and the American immigrant experience. A quote that is shared between Tom and Jason Birchard is “family is the treasure at the end of the rainbow.” We have all heard companies, large and small, declare they are run by a family-like dynamic, but rarely does that notion hold up to close examination. The people that make up the Veselka team actually do operate like a close-knit family.

The documentary follows not only the Birchard family but the lives of the Ukrainian employees who keep the restaurant running day and night. A major story thread we follow is that of Vitalii Desiatnychenko and his journey to bring his family safely from Ukraine to America. Vitalii, the restaurant’s current Director of Operations, is a man of few words but a great heart. Fiore is unflinching in what he shows the audience of Vitalii’s long-distance communications with his family and the day-to-day turmoil that greatly affects his and the Birchard’s efforts to bring their fellow Ukrainians to a place of safety and peace.

Jason Birchard in VESELKA ©Fiore Media Group

The Russia-Ukraine war may appear to have fallen out of interest for most of American media outlets, but Veselka aims to remind us that these global conflicts and the lives they affect do not simply vanish because we do not see them on our social-media pages anymore. Take the message from the film to heart and go out and support the causes for the people of Ukraine and other similar hot spots of the world (including those affected by the conflicts in Gaza).


Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.

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