Ukraine’s Got Talent: Engineer Turned Restaurateur Turned Politician Breaking the Old System

2017/10/11 17:21:13

Sergiy Gusovsky (center), head of the Samopomich faction in the Kyiv city council and entrepreneur, with supporters in Kyiv October 9. Courtesy photo.



By Melinda Haring for Ukraine Alert, Oct 10, 2017


Few would ever dream of challenging Vitali Klitschko, the three-time world heavyweight champion and mayor of Kyiv, in any kind of competition. But Sergiy Gusovsky isn’t like most people. Nearly a foot shorter and a political novice, Gusovsky went after Klitschko in the 2015 local elections. Even though the boxing champion was re-elected mayor, Gusovsky grabbed a respectable 7.7 percent of the vote, and today leads the second-largest faction in the Kyiv city council.


It’s easy to underestimate Gusovsky. With his trim runner’s build and low-key manner, he often doesn’t register in Ukraine’s political circus. But one should not underestimate him. The engineer turned restaurateur turned politician has confidence, energy, and impatience; quietly and systematically, he is breaking Ukraine’s old system in Kyiv’s city council. He clearly has higher ambitions.


As Gusovsky strolls down Kyiv’s main thoroughfare on a pleasant Thursday evening in September, numerous passersby stop him for selfies and handshakes. He happily obliges. The fifty-year-old son of Kyiv is one of the city’s most beloved businessmen, and his fast walk, stylish glasses, and bald head make him instantly recognizable.


Gusovsky’s embrace of a political career isn’t quite as surprising as it might at first seem. The electrical engineer first reinvented himself in his thirties as a worldly foodie, when he opened Osteria Pantagruel in 1995. Three years ago, Gusovsky pivoted into politics after the 2014 Revolution of Dignity.


He had been active during the 2004 Orange Revolution and was offered a government post, but ultimately decided that the timing and position were wrong. But after the Euromaidan Revolution, Gusovsky jumped into politics out of “an innate feeling that you’re responsible for the place where you live. I was born here, I live here. I belong to Ukraine,” he told me recently.


Indeed, Gusovsky’s grandfather ran Ukraine’s Arsenal Factory, and despite considerable wealth and an ability to pick up and live anywhere—Gusovsky is fluent in English and Italian—he has never lived abroad, apart from serving in the army during the Soviet period, and says he doesn’t want to.


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