A Letter From Kyiv: How American Business Leaders and Consumers Can Help Ukraine

The time to act is now, and fast, from writing your representatives to supporting Ukrainian businesses

February 27, 2022 11:47 am
Demonstrators march behind a banner in the colors of the national flag during a rally in Kyiv in February
Demonstrators march behind a banner in the colors of the national flag during a rally in Kyiv in February
Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty

The following letter was shared with an alumni group from a leading U.S. business school. InsideHook was given permission to publish it by the author. We are keeping his name as well as other identifying details confidential for his protection. Like many of our readers, he is a businessman, husband and father of young children. Our thoughts and hopes are with him and the Ukrainian people.

I know it’s not cool for a grown-up man to struggle to keep his tears, but that’s what I do now as I’m writing to you. After graduating business school, I began to work at a firm based in Kyiv. I couldn’t have wished for a better job, as I long wanted to focus on my home region of Emerging Europe. On all levels, it’s been extraordinary. I made senior partner, our LPs have been delighted with our growth, and we all feel what we do has a huge impact, helping the country rebuild despite the ongoing conflict with Russia and losing 7% of the territory in Crimea and Donbas.

Three days ago, our life turned upside down. My wife, our boys and I are still in Ukraine, but we are safe. All we have now fits in a few suitcases; we’re figuring out what’s next, but most importantly, we are well and safe. I can’t say the same about the vast majority of Ukrainians — families who spend nights in bomb shelters and men who join the army en masse, following the needed, mandatory conscription initiated by President Zelensky. Meanwhile, over 100,000 refugees have left the country already, primarily to Poland and Moldova. The latter starts choking under the pressure. Many spend the night in freezing cold, with small children, trying to cross by foot. Men between 18 and 60 are not let out, as they are expected to defend their country.

Wars are always ugly. This one particularly so, given how unequal the forces and how cruel the aggressor. I’m sure I am preaching to the converted, but we are truly dealing with a cynical monster. Don’t dismiss him as a mere psycho. He is a calculated, frustrated man. The parallels with 1939 are scary. The West’s reaction — as much as you may disagree — is a disgrace. Something is deeply wrong if after the sanctions were announced, the Russian stock market recovered by 25%. Back in 1938, the civilized world chose to sacrifice a good chunk of the Czech Republic to appease another frustrated, troubled revanchist. We all know how this ended. This war is not one between Russia and Ukraine alone. It’s a war between the civilized world and a sick revanchist ideology hiding behind a perverted interpretation of Russian Orthodoxy, with imperial Pan-Slavicism thrown in, but at its core, just a cynical smokescreen by a clique of insecure, frustrated kleptocrats.

Many of you are asking if you can help. This means a huge lot. The best and simplest way you can help is to publicly show your support and pressure the politicians to act. The big risk now is that Ukraine will become part of some grand geopolitical arrangement, as has often happened in history. If anything, the experience of Crimean annexation in 2014, which was just “swallowed” by the world, clearly shows that such “Munich 1938”- like appeasements lead to inevitable escalations, as the aggressors are emboldened by inaction. Today it is Ukraine. Tomorrow it will be Taiwan. The day after, Finland. The risk of a domino effect is imminent. It’s not unimaginable that inaction will lead to WW3. Many of you will say I am hyper, crazy and exaggerating. Well, never in my life would I have imagined that Russian ballistic missiles and artillery will be hitting Kyiv during nighttime. Until the very end, I was dismissing people as crazy for truly believing in a Russian invasion and was refusing to leave Kyiv even two weeks after all embassies fled. How wrong was I. Guys, this is not an abstract BGIE discussion — it’s Munich all over again. We’re on the brink of WW3 if the world doesn’t act. Please speak up. Please don’t remain silent. Show your politicians that you care. I beg you.

Another practical way you can help is to buy Ukrainian. Anything you can find, really. Perhaps easiest and of highest impact: hire Ukrainian software engineers. They are some of the best in the world and to win this war, we will also need to make sure our economy won’t collapse. The local currency is under pressure and a steady stream of foreign exchange is as important as is getting Javelins and Stingers. IT is already a top-three exports category and a huge contributor to GDP. If your companies need some of the most talented engineers in the world, please let me know. I will provide you contacts so that you can hire at scale: Python programmers, data scientists, dev-ops geeks, blockchain freaks.

Google, Oracle, Facebook, Snap, Amazon, eBay, Pinterest many others have all acquired local companies in search for extraordinary tech and people. Please support any other businesses from Ukraine if you have the choice. The country has emerged as a hotbed of creativity and technological innovation, from sleek security devices (Ajax) to leaders in workflow automation (airSlate) and no-code CRM (Creatio) to pet-care technology that is making me regret I don’t have a dog yet (Petcube). And if we are at it, you can stock up on Purcari’s Freedom Blend, a wine symbolically made of indigenous Ukrainian, Moldovan and Georgian grapes, to celebrate the inevitable victory against the barbarians invading us. The winery turned their Chateau into a refugee camp overnight, hosting over 100 people, as Moldovans try to do all they can to help the Ukrainians in need.

Please share this message with others if you feel it helps to catalyze action. I wish my update was a different one. I wish we caught up under different circumstances. But I would have not forgiven myself if I hadn’t appealed to your help. If we want to hold true to our school’s mission of educating leaders who change the world, Ukraine, the surrounding region and the whole world really needs you to act, and act now.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.