How can I help my country? It’s the question every Ukrainian has been asking themselves since February 24. After my family left the country and I settled down in one of the western cities of Ukraine, I tried to resume my work and do what I could for our people. Staying close to others and maintaining relationships is my way of dealing with sorrow.
My story starts very typically for Ukrainians: on February 24th, my family and I were woken up by the sounds of explosions. First, we didn’t understand what had happened. Then we started to think about what to do. Through the window, we saw our neighbors leaving by cars, and other people going to the subway holding suitcases.
My wife and I argued for several hours. She wanted to stay, and I wanted to take her and the kids away from the danger. After all, I remembered the old car I hadn’t driven for six years (a small Chery QQ). It was still parked, so I went there and tried to “reanimate” it. Luckily, I succeeded. We packed the car with our stuff and left the city. It was the evening of February 24th.
I was really nervous about the car’s condition. Besides, I hadn’t driven for two years! I was chose smaller roads (for safety purposes as well). We drove for 15 hours. We saw many cars with flat tires and more severe damage. But we were lucky not to break down on the road and come to the village in the Chernivtsy region.
We decided that my wife and kids would cross the border. First, we went to the Moldova border, but the air alarm started, and my wife got too scared. We left. On the second attempt, we went to the border with Romania. There was a big line (around 5 km) of waiting cars. We left ours, took our kids and stuff, and went to the crossing point on foot. At the border, I said goodbye to my family without even knowing if I would ever saw them again.
Work “as usual”
On March 2nd, my brother and I came to Chernivtsi. His family had also left Ukraine. We registered as temporarily relocated citizens and then went to the military registration office. To be completely honest, it was a bit scary: we didn’t have any military experience. What if we had to take part in actual combat? But they told us that the army didn’t need us yet, so we should wait for further instructions.
It’s been nearly three months since then. My life in Chernivtsy looks like this now. Sometimes we hear an air raid sirens, which means people should hide in the shelters. We live in a private house, so we go to the room at the center of the building instead. Like all Ukrainians, we know the rule of two walls: it’s safer to hide in a room separated from the street by two walls.
Lately, we’ve been hearing sirens less often. The situation in Kyiv also got better, and I decided to move back home. I’m planning to go there soon.
It’s been hard to keep working as usual. Air raid sirens, hiding, and my mental state are obstacles to productivity. Also, I miss my wife and kids very much. She sends me their pictures, and I see how much they have grown since I last saw them. Right now, they are in Germany living in an apartment provided by a volunteer. Our older son is going to a German school, and my wife is trying to find a kindergarten for the younger. We still don’t know how soon we’ll see each other.
The first few weeks after I moved to Chernivtsi, my productivity was much lower than before the war. My colleagues were in different cities; some stayed in Ukraine and some were abroad. It was hard to concentrate, and it was not always easy to communicate with them, but we all knew how important it was to keep the business afloat. Money means support for the country and our families. So, we didn’t have meetings only in the first two weeks and then resumed the regular calls.
My productivity started to increase after I had finally accepted the harsh reality that the war will last for who-knows-how-long. I continue reading the news, but I keep a certain emotional distance. It helps me to cope with life as it is now.
Volunteering and mentoring
Apart from working, I joined “The IT Army of Ukraine”. There’s a Telegram channel where we get instructions daily. This project aims to take down specific Russian websites, make the aggressor’s life harder, and slow down its economy. Through a self-written application, I perform DDOS requests. According to VPN statistics, more than 38 GB of traffic has already been used. It is difficult to say how many requests it means, but at least several million. In the first few weeks, I’ve been switching between work and IT Army’s tasks during the day. (I can’t do it simultaneously because I need different VPNs for these activities.) And now I perform IT Army’s tasks on the weekends.
Also, I think it’s essential for all the people who continue working to help our army. I donated a certain amount of money to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, then bought the war bonds. I continue paying all taxes. Plus, at the beginning of the war, I helped my friend collect money for the Territorial Defense Forces (volunteer military units created in different parts of Ukraine after the war started) of Kyiv. They needed the money to buy thermal imagers and walkie-talkies.
To be more useful (and feel less guilty for staying in a safe place), I decided to mentor people. One of my mentees is the person who used to take me to work in Kyiv. He studies Java, and we talk several times per week. I answer his questions and give some recommendations. Also, I started mentoring his wife. When I’m back in Kyiv, they will come to my place to study.
I wanted to help at least someone, and it was my way to achieving this goal. Besides, it helped me distract myself a little bit from the war. During the first few weeks, I was reading the news all the time. My mind was burning out, and my heart was aching. It feels much better to make something good happen.
In the beginning, it was hard to accept that something like this could happen. Now, it has already become a part of our reality. Something has changed in all of us after Bucha and Mariupol. It hit me hard when Russian troops bombed the theater where hundreds of women, children, and older people were hiding. My wife’s relatives used to live in Mariupol. After more than a month under Russian occupation, they managed to evacuate to Russia. Then, they crossed the Estonian border and went to Kyiv through Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. It took nine days. They were exhausted because from mid-March till mid-April they had no gas, electricity, almost no water, or food.
We don’t know when the war will end. But we’re waiting for the positive news and trying to do what we can.
If you want to bring our victory closer, you can donate money to the Armed Forces of Ukraine via the official website of the National Bank of Ukraine here: https://bank.gov.ua/en/about/support-the-armed-forces.
Also, my company decided to help Ukrainians, who lost their jobs, start a new career as Java developers. If you want to participate, you can make your contribution here: https://landing.codegym.cc/en/donation/