War in Ukraine Through the Eyes of CIGS Champ Vladyslav Demonenko: Part Three

We close our three-part interview with Vladyslav Demonenko, a barista and CIGS competitor in Ukraine who has relocated to Berlin during the war.


Photos courtesy of Vladyslav Demonenko

From the editor: Last week, we chatted in-depth with Ukrainian barista Vladyslav Demonenko about life in his country during the Russian invasion. Today, we learn about life in Berlin after relocating, and what this means for his future as a Coffee in Good Spirits competitor.

Caroline Cormier: You’ve recently been able to leave Ukraine and are currently in Berlin. Can you tell us how this was possible, and what your current situation is in the German capital?

Vladyslav Demonenko: It was not an easy decision to leave, but I have two younger brothers, ages 9 and 17, who were extremely stressed due to the frequent sirens and explosions, etc., in Dnipro. So, I asked my dad if I could take temporary custody of them and take them with me to Berlin. There, I have friends who are hosting us temporarily, so it’s been a comfortable period for us. Our mother is not able to go abroad because she also takes care of her mother, who is sick and elderly, and my father is now part of the territorial defense. I am the only one left to take care of them.

Due to a medical condition, I am not fit for military service. Before I left, the medical commission confirmed my condition, which allowed me to cross the border. I’ve been in Berlin for a couple of weeks now, looking for a temporary job to help support myself and my brothers. I don’t know how long I’ll be staying in Berlin; it all depends on whether I find an apartment or a job here and, of course, if it will be comfortable for my family. At this point, I’m more open than ever to traveling anywhere in the world to find something.

Felix Bezruk (left) and Alexandr Remesnik (right), owners of Funt Coffee in Ukraine, pose with Vladyslav Demonenko after he won his first Coffee in Good Spirits Championship in Ukraine. He went on to compete and place seventh globally at the World of Coffee event held in Berlin in 2019.

You are supposed to represent Ukraine at the World Coffee in Good Spirits Championship at the World of Coffee in Milan this month. Are you still hoping to attend the event to represent your country? Have you thought at all about what it means to represent Ukraine here?

This is a very difficult question for me. I really want to participate, and I have devoted so much time to CIGS. After all, this is my favorite discipline. For this year’s competition, I found an incredibly rare Colombian coffee and came up with a couple of exciting drinks. But now I don’t even know how I can compete in the championship because the stress of the ongoing situation is so immense. Imagine working in a coffee shop one minute, and the next an alarm sounds, and you have less than five minutes to hide from a possible explosion. And this happens five or six times a day. Sometimes even more. In such conditions, it is difficult to think about synergy, mixology, or taste. On top of that, I often feel guilty that I am in relative safety and have the ability to work, while so many others do not.

Occasionally, I find myself thinking about the championship and what I could tell the audience and the judges. It is painful, not pleasant, for me to realize that I will need to represent my country. To be honest, I don’t have the right words just yet. But I do believe that this will not be my last championship—I feel it.

But, for now, getting from the reality I find myself currently to the World of Coffee is just a dream. It’s unreasonable to think about my participation without knowing what tomorrow will bring. I do hope, and believe, that the war will all come to an end. After all, we are strong and united—and we won’t give up until we win.


Caroline Cormier (she/her) is a freelance writer from  Toronto, Canada. She currently lives in Berlin, Germany, where she’s been supporting local efforts to help Ukrainians who have fled to the German capital. You can follow her on Instagram at @ccormier_.

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