Every weekend, hundreds of people go to the Ukrainian capital’s Pochaina neighborhood in search of bargains at its famous flea market.
Antique hunters, collectors, and others sift through apparently endless rows of baubles and faded things. It’s a dizzying collection of Soviet-era antiquities like beautiful medals, pottery with photos of communist leaders, Cold War-era gas masks, and military uniform items.
Despite Ukraine’s ban on Soviet and Nazi symbols adopted in 2015 as a part of the country’s effort to distance itself from its totalitarian past, vendors, buyers and law enforcement all seem undisturbed by such historic relics being openly sold.
“It’s purely business, there are no (USSR) sympathizers around here. Items like this are in high demand,” says Kristian Zander, a 49-year-old market vendor, pointing at the “Buying USSR relics” sign at his stand. On display are kitchenware and utensils, hunting knives, Soviet badges and bottle openers.
The market has survived the Russia-Ukraine war, even with the disappearance of tourists and the decreasing purchasing power of most Ukrainians.
Despite more and more buyers having to tighten their belts, the market still offers a large and eclectic variety of goods to those with any money to spend. A single vendor may sell items including almost-vintage VHS tapes, World War II dishware, manicure scissors, brand-name sneaker knockoffs, decades-old lingerie, broken multimedia players and cracked guitars. The vendor often hopes to sell the wares for pennies before they go to waste.