AEGEE and Les Anciens members have a close relationship with hostels. They slept in countless of them. However, Les Anciens and AEGEE members as hostel owners – that’s something new. It happened just a few weeks ago in Kyiv: Rissana Shytu and her friends Tim Joris “TJ” and Philip opened “The Hub” in the Ukrainian capital. AEGEE and Les Anciens members get ten percent discount – and AEGEE-Kyiv will host the participants of the upcoming Human Resources European School there. Les Anciens board member Rissana gave the Golden Times more insights into this new enterprise.

Golden Times: Rissana, who are people behind The Hub?
Rissana Shytu: For now we are three people working on The Hub – and all of us were in AEGEE for a various time and intensity: me, TJ is even still a member of AEGEE Brussels, and Philip, whose AEGEE experience was much shorter.

Golden Times: Who had the idea?
Rissana: That’s the beauty of it: we came up with the idea separately and then by mysterious ways that life works that we found each other! TJ and Philip were thinking and dreaming of it for around 10 years. My idea came less than a year ago, more in the way of searching for things I could do and things that are needed in Kyiv. This city offers a lot of opportunities and even though it’s not the easiest place on Earth to set up a business, still there are so many open markets, services and things that are still not being offered by anybody else. You just need to get doing them when the consumer is ready, but before everybody else will realise that it’s a good place to start a company.

Golden Times: When did the hostel open?
Rissana (smiles): On 31st of December 2011. Our goal was to open in 2011 and we accomplished it! Our first guests arrived that very day and we had an opening and New Year’s party. Despite the fact that the construction team moved out only in the morning of the 31st and that we had to run a crush test with cleaning, we met our guests with shiny windows, clean floors and working bathrooms.

Golden Times: You worked on the opening for several months. How do you feel now? Relieved?
Rissana: It all was and still is in a sort of whiplash. There’s so much to do, just the work keeps on changing. First it was planning the space, then choosing the contractor, then supplying the construction materials. Easy part. Choosing wall colors, wallpapers, beds, lockers – medium hard. Interviewing people, selecting staff and declining those who don’t fit, working all those small things into a big well-oiled machine – hard. It’s a bit difficult to describe how I feel. It’s a mixture of happy, proud of a well done job, but at the same time anxious – how will it do, will the guests like us, will we be able to pay the bills at the end of the month. And there’s a third layer of feelings that is planning – the only way to make the most out of anxiety and happiness: how to improve things, how to cut the budget, how to get more guests to come and post positive reviews, how to train staff so that they are even more helpful, how to make place more comfortable…

Golden Times: Aren’t there already many hostels in Kyiv?
Rissana: So far Kyiv could offer hostels based in apartments, for 20-30 people only. Bigger ones existed, but way outside regular tourist paths.

Golden Times: What makes your hostel special?
Rissana: We put our hearts into The Hub and people feel it when they come to us. From the comfort point of view: we offer great beds, clean bathrooms and convenient location. Since we are big, there is a lot of people to meet and make new friends. We also have huge space for outdoor activities. Also for groups its beneficiary – finally they can stay in a similar type facility, not being forced to choose who goes into a private or dorm room. We can take groups of up to 50 people in dorms only!

Golden Times: In total, how many rooms do you have? How much does it cost to stay there?
Rissana: We have 10 rooms for 67 beds. Dorms cost 9 to 17 Euro a night, depending on the season and number of people. Guests have a choice between dorms for 12, 10, 8 or 6 people. We also have one female-only dorm for 6 to 8 ladies, depending on the season. At the same time there are private rooms for 1 to 4 people, which will cost 35 Euro till the end of February and 40 to 50 Euro in busier seasons.

Golden Times: What about the location – is it central?
Rissana: The Hub is in the very heart of the city. Forget about public transportation, you can get everywhere on foot. We’re set in the middle of a beautiful 19th century part of the city, 5 minutes walking from the main street Khreschatyk. We have a park across the street, lots of museums that are worth visiting. All the nightlife and shopping is just around the corner. At the same time we are off the street, so our guests have quiet nights, no neighbours to disturb should they decide to party and a lot of space to do sports, play snowballs right now or just walk out for a smoke.

Golden Times: The pictures look nice indeed. How would you describe the interior style of the hostel?
Rissana: The Hub is a tribute to Kyiv. Every room is named after a person that influenced a city greatly, or a landmark that is worth knowing about. Rooms are decorated with pictures of the places, made by known and starting artists. Apart from that the hostel is made in warm colours, with an idea to create a unique homely atmosphere. We also have special decorations in an upper floor corridor, made for us by a group of artists, who modernise traditional Ukrainian drawings, very beautiful. Further on we plan to give artists space for presentations and exhibitions of contemporary Ukrainian art. Having a lot of international people around will help greatly to that cause. Ukraine and Kyiv in particular have a lot to offer. Helping our guests to discover those things, also within our walls, is our goal.

Golden Times: What kind of service do you offer your guests?
Rissana: Our guests expect comfortable beds, clean bathrooms, private lockers for their treasured belongings. Everything else we provide exceeds expectations. Our guidebook was a page called: “what a perfect hostel should provide” and we did include most of the things from the list – including free internet, 24 hour reception, no lock out or curfew hours. We don’t impose any unnecessary rules on our guests. We also keep things free, like tea and coffee, luggage storage for the day of departure and ironing.

Golden Times: Did any of you had hostel managing experience before?
Rissana: Our hosteling experience is limited to that of a guest. We have a lot of experience on what a traveller needs and what a good hostel is, though. So, our combined knowledge is our key to success. I’ve been managing my first business for almost two years now, that was and is a very good school. And even though for my partners this is a first business experience as such, they are very successful in their respective careers and this gives them needed tools for managing The Hub.

Golden Times: How many guests and bookings did you get so far?
Rissana: We’re working with a steady 12 to 15 percent occupancy rate for this first month. This is more than we’ve been expecting. Mostly our guests are coming from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, making private rooms a hot commodity. We did also get some people from as far as Australia, Japan and the US. As I am writing this, we are preparing for our first group coming – 18 people from the Peace Corps, and this is very exciting!

Golden Times: Will you make a deal with AEGEE-Kyiv about using the hostel for SUs?
Rissana: Not yet for the SU, but we will host the upcoming HR European School in April and we are very much looking forward to that. of course, all of us are very interested in having AEGEE people around, so we offer a special 10 percent discount to current and past members. Also we have AEGEE people helping us with the web site and social media. We also have Yuri Tokarski contributing his invaluable diplomatic expertise and knowledge of German language for the development of The Hub.

Golden Times: Can you find your hostel in the big international hostel booking websites?
Rissana: We are already accepting bookings and climbing up the ladder on sites like and For others, we have some allocation policies to sort out and then we will be available there as well.

The Hub on

Golden Times: How do you and the other owners share the work?
Rissana: While most of the decisions we make together, I’m managing our daily operations, Philip and TJ are actively promoting the hostel and do international sales. And they are also the financial centre of all the venture. Let me put it this way: together we’re like a big head making decisions and I’m the body implementing them. The longest was finding the perfect place. It took us almost three month, but this one was well worth all the search.

Golden Times: How many hours per week do you work in the hostel?
Rissana: At present it’s around 70 to 80 hours and I’m still very much behind my e-mails and the thinking and planning workload. In the upcoming weeks things will settle down and this number will reduce. At least I hope so. Add to this my second business, my laundrette, time to eat, move around the city and sleep – I’m a very busy girl indeed!

Golden Times: You mentioned your laundrette. How is that going?
Rissana: It’s doing ok. I had to move it down on my priorities list for the time being, but now we are settling in new premises, installing the equipment again and getting ready for a full speed ride into spring.

Golden Times: Do you have more business ideas? What for example?
Rissana: I do! Some of them are related to things I’m doing now, some not really. There is nothing I am going to pursue in the next 8 to 10 months, anyway, for obvious reasons. Some of the ideas are: a cooking school, we’ve started it with a friend of mine back in 2008, right before the crisis and had to put it on the shelf till better times. Then there’s an idea to open a “supported living home”. Subject of care for elderly people is still almost absolutely uncovered here, even people with means have trouble finding a decent care for their elderly, not to mention middle class. Other ideas I’m not ready to make public just yet.

Golden Times: AEGEE members get ten percent off in your hostel. Also Les Anciens members?
Rissana: Of course, 10 percent off and a free beer once you come to stay!

More info about The Hub:
Facebook page:
Address: 5A Tereschankivska st, Kyiv
Phone: +380 44 22 912 66