Fill a large pot with 5 cups of water. Add beets and boil covered for about 1 hour or until you can smoothly pierce the beets with a fork. Then remove beets from the water and set aside to cool. Keep the water.
Add potatoes to the beet water and cook for about 15-20 minutes. Add cabbage to the pot when potatoes are half way done, that is after about 8 minutes.
Add some cooking oil to a pan and cook onion until translucent. Add carrots and celery and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally add tomato paste and cook for another minute or two.
Peel and thinly slice beets (wearing gloves!) before adding them to the soup pot. Add beans, lemon juice, sugar and the bayleaf to the pot and fill it with vegetable broth. Finally add sautéed vegetables and herbs to the pot and cook another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt.