Café “Café”: Tipping the Glass at Lviv Railway Station
Photographer. Lives and works in Lviv. Published in Bird in Flight, Reporters, and The Kiosk of Democracy.
— After the renovation of the Lviv Main Railway Station, the Suburban Station also is planned for renovation, and the passage where the café is located will be transformed into a commercial and entertainment center. The establishment is in its final days, its long-standing history coming to an end, along with its regular customers with diverse characters — this patchwork quilt of a certain social stratum from a specific era will disappear.
When I first came to the cafe “Café,” I immediately noticed the saleswoman – sincere and friendly. The more time I spent there, the more I liked Mrs. Halyna. Due to the location of the establishment and its clientele, this woman faces conflict situations, even fights, yet she manages to remain delicate, polite, and restrained. Sometimes, during our conversations, I was amazed by the breadth and boldness of her views, even though we talked about very different things. Many visitors come to cafe “Café” specifically for her because she is loved here.
Before coming here, Mrs. Halyna worked for 25 years at “Express” café, which is around the corner from the station. By profession, she is a food production technologist, so she knows everything about this business. Before New Year’s, Mrs. Halyna decorated “Café Café” herself with garlands, set up a Christmas tree because she wanted to create a cozy atmosphere. “It’s so nice when people come, talk to you, and don’t want to go anywhere. I feel their joy, and it makes me feel good too,” she confesses.
“It’s so delightful when people come, engage in conversation with you, and don’t want to leave.”
The visitors of “Сafe” were initially cautious towards me. I needed to earn their trust, fit into the local space, do something to become one of them: eat and drink what everyone else does, listen and hear their stories, share about myself, simply be here and now. Only then did I receive reciprocity – genuine communication and good treatment.
People here usually seek company, but sometimes random visitors come to the café, eating chanakhi and having a quick drink while waiting for their train.
People here usually seek companionship.
Once, a man brought his cat to the café and then ran around with a rag to wipe the table where the cat had placed its paws. I was often amazed at how people from a different dimension—the one usually considered inferior—surprised with their sensitivity and decency. Here, the moral system was turned upside down: those labeled by society turned out to be bigger individuals in certain situations than the rest. I also remember a man who came to the café almost every day, sat at a table by the window, and always ordered 70 grams of vodka and 30 grams of water. He would sit for about fifteen minutes, listen to others, never saying anything himself, and then leave.
I was often struck by how people from a different dimension—the one that is usually considered inferior—surprised with their sensitivity and integrity.
Also, sometimes there is Roma Rada in the cafe, whom Mrs. Halyna met 25 years ago. Since then, Rada has already given birth to so many children that the saleswoman stopped remembering their names, but the latest son is definitely called Chuck Norris.
Recently, municipal police entered the cafe demanding markings for social distancing. That’s how one black stripe appeared across the entire “Cafe.”
Recently, municipal police entered the cafe demanding to make markings for maintaining social distancing.