• Michael Cholod
  • May 14th, 2024

My very good friend Ira died at 3 am on Sunday morning, five days after her 26th birthday. Ira was one of the brightest lights at my beloved Hotel Bursa in Kyiv and we shared many laughs and tears together. Far more responsible than I ever was at 26, Ira kept the bars and restaurants running while acting as mother hen for all the staff. She was always around, laptop in hand, ordering supplies and scheduling the good people who transform the best hotel in the world into a home.

Now she is gone, and I don’t know what I’m going to do without seeing her bright smile and without being able to hug her every morning.

A Bulleit in my heart

Yesterday I received a text from a good friend telling me that Ira was gone, and I immediately made my way to Bursa to help my family grieve the senseless loss of someone dear to all. When I arrived the mood was sombre, Losha was sobbing, Vikka was walking around as if in a coma, and the other Losha was angry. We poured some shots of Ira’s favourite, Bulleit Bourbon, and set one shot aside for her as we toasted the light we had lost.

Not surprisingly, the 6th anniversary party of the hotel’s 1818 rooftop bar was cancelled. As the evening wore on, a steady stream of current and former Bursa staff gathered together to drink bourbon and smoke cigarettes while crying & laughing over stories of Ira and her larger-than-life personality. We’re all going to miss her bright smile and funky glasses but most of all, we’ll miss her being around to look after us all.

At times like this, the best thing we can do is share memories of the life we lost, and I’d like to share one of my favourite Ira stories so perhaps you can remember her too.

Now about Michael…

As the Bursa food and beverage manager, Ira was responsible for hiring all the folks who create such a welcoming atmosphere. In fact, this story was relayed to me by one of the summer serving staff in the courtyard restaurant, Supra. It was Karina’s first day on the job last April and before I was even able to bestow my first welcome hug, she said “Oh, you must be Michael!”

I was confused because I’d never met Karina, so I asked her how she knew my name. Well, it turns out that when Ira was done the formal part of her job interview with Karina a few weeks earlier, she closed her folder and said, “Now we need to talk about Michael.” Ira then proceeded to explain that “Michael is a very special guest at Bursa, and we all love him, but he’s not your ordinary guest”. “Michael likes to hug people and he’ll probably hug you too on your first day, but don’t worry it’s just his thing. He always cleans up his own dishes and will also help himself to water or coffee behind the bar from time to time, but that’s okay - he’s special, and we love him.”

It's incredibly heart-warming to know that Ira loved my quirks enough to make me part of the official Bursa training process, but now she is gone.

Go in Peace Sweet Ira

Ira's funeral is today in Kyiv.

This is the most difficult blog I’ve ever written, and I hope I never have to write another like this. Death and destruction are sadly commonplace in Ukraine, but it’s even harder when it happens so close to home, when you’re forced to remember family who’ve died before their time. The world dies a little bit every day in this country and Sunday was no exception, but my world is a little bit darker without Ira.

Slava Ira!  Heroiam Slava!