Elena Margulis is an entrepreneur and the founder of fEast – a series of events in Berlin which aim to show the diversity of Eastern European culture. We met the Ukrainian in Prenzlauer Berg and she told us about her business in the making, about fEast and about her journey from Kiev to Berlin. All that and more you can read in our Berlinograd interview.
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine. A country where McDonald’s didn’t exist at that time, Levi’s jeans were hard to find and where a girl had to dance ballet, or play the piano. But also a country where spring smells of lilac and fall of chestnuts.
What is the strongest memory you have of your hometown?
It surprises me how many pictures and emotions are still stuck in my mind of my hometown, even though I was so young. I will probably still tell my kids about the memory of my good old babysitter. She was a grumpy old lady, who used to clean houses of KGB members before she came to work for us. Back then it was hard to find someone trustworthy, so my mom hired her in the belief that someone who has cleaned houses of “the bad guys” could also be trusted to look after me (laughs). One day, I was maybe two or three years old, I had a terrible stomach pain and I couldn’t go to the toilet. Without any compassion to my struggle, she took a piece of this brownish looking organic soap and . . . well put it this way – after a few minutes I was relieved from my pain.
When did you arrive in Germany?
It was 1995 – when Mariah Carey was still a thing and the movie “Die Hard 3” was showing at the movie theater. I was seven years old. Like so many Jewish families living the post-Soviet Union states, we were planning to emigrate to the US or Israel. But my mother’s wisdom steered us to Germany. First, we lived in a “Plattenbau” in Fuerth – a smaller city next to Nuremberg, where we soon moved into our own apartment for the first time. You cannot imagine my excitement having my very own room which I could cover with Aaron Carter posters. Then to Berlin and then, lastly to Munich – which I call my German hometown.
When did you arrive in Berlin and what brought you here?
My first Berlin experience was at age 11, when my father got his first job in Germany. And I was proud to attend gymnasium in West Berlin though we didn’t end up staying for long. After my graduation in Vienna five years ago, I decided to move back to Berlin for my job in a start-up.
What do you do and what is your profession?
I am specialized in the digital economy which means I am either creating digital transformation strategies for small and medium-sized enterprises or corporations. Along with that I develop digital businesses in product marketing or sales. However, I am currently on my own journey of building a business, an online shop called blissd. The idea is to enable people to become their own doctor in a way, with products from traditional medicine focusing on de-stressing, mindful relaxation and better sleep. It’s still in the making, but you can already subscribe for launch news.
You founded the event series “fEast”. What is that and what does it stand for?
The word stands for the English word “feast” and it is also an abbreviation of „from the East“. fEast is a series of events which aim to show the diversity of Eastern European culture. We showcase all kind of events which enable you to hear, see, taste and feel Eastern European culture!
Why did you found the project and why do you think it is important?
I founded fEast because I felt the need to reconnect with my roots. I didn’t want to focus just on Ukraine, because it might trigger a political approach due to the current situation. I believe in unity in diversity, which I want to express with fEast. But I also need to share my credits with Luba Kemenova, who runs the coffee place and book store ostPost in Berlin-Mitte, where the event is also taking place.
What is typical about Berlin? What do you love (or hate) about Berlin?
Berlin is celebrated for its techno, tech & food. I love all three. I love the dynamics of the city, the drive of the people and the cultural diversity. What I don’t like is the superficiality of connections and the urge of permanent over-engineering yourself. In a weird but charming way the city has found its own balance and embraces the good and the bad as it comes with a certain ease.
What is your contribution to make Berlin a little bit more beautiful?
I founded a Facebook group for friends and friends of friends named “How to make Berlin winter great again”. In this group everyone can suggest exciting, new things to do on grey Berlin winter days – but in the other seasons too! And, of course the events of “fEast” which contribute to Berlin’s cultural beauty and its diversity – well, I hope (smiles).
What is your favorite place in Berlin?
A little coffee place “Kaffee”on Immanuelkirchstraße in the Winsviertel, Prenzlauer Berg. Here you can see all generations gathering together: students who work here, young writers and bloggers, but also families and former club bouncers from the 90s who have been living in the Kiez for a long time. And yes, it also has wifi.