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Wartime life and work: How an IT company with a large presence in Ukraine keeps operating during the Russian invasion

On February 24th, 2022, between 4 and 5 AM Kyiv time, Russia started bombing Ukrainian military infrastructure. Russian forces did not stop there, though. Putin’s regime launched a war against innocent Ukrainian civilians. The Russian army continues attacking Ukrainian schools, hospitals, maternity clinics, kindergartens — killing children, women, elderly people, leaving civilians with very few options to evacuate to safety.

Viseven is a European company with offices across the world, including Ukraine. Up until Russia’s war against the country, Viseven also used to have an office in Moscow. The company terminated all ties with Russia and Belarus, as well as contracts involving both aggressor states’ clients.

Since the onset of the war, Viseven started relocating its Ukrainian staff to safer cities within the country. The company’s CEO, Nataliya Andreychuk, says the safety of their employees is a top priority. Keeping that in mind, the company continues to run its daily operations, with most professionals working remotely.

What are their experiences? How do the people behind the projects live? Here are some of their stories.

Yevhen D, Chief People Officer:

I was in Kyiv as the bombs hit. I did not evacuate the greater Kyiv area and am currently working from a village near the Ukrainian capital. I often hear heavy artillery fire, military planes flying overhead, and explosions as I log onto my computer. But I have to continue to join conference calls with the team, granted many of the typical work-day calls start with a simple “How are you, and was the night okay where you’re at?” I have to admit, it is hard to be productive, but keeping yourself occupied can also be helpful. My message to the world? I am angry at Russia… forever angry.

Nataliia S, Office Manager:

I am currently coordinating relocation efforts to the safer city of Ternopil in the western part of Ukraine. In fact, I was already in Ternopil researching potential office spaces in case of a Russian invasion when the rockets hit my beloved Kyiv. My son, whom I left with my parents, was with them when the bombs started falling from the sky. I had a phone call with my parents, who said something blew up fairly close by. I must be honest; there is no time to be sad. I have to remain strong for my child, family, and country, despite the panic, fear, and anger that continue to run through my mind. Currently, I am helping Viseven staff who have evacuated from cities under Russia’s massive attack. The typical office space no longer looks like it: mattresses, pillows, blankets – all to help people feel safer and more comfortable while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy during air raid sirens. Employees are scared and fearful. Everyone saw how rockets were flying into residential buildings, hitting civilian infrastructure, Russians are bombing hospitals and schools. So, keeping things running may be difficult, but it is necessary to keep going in times of war.

Many of the professionals not directly involved in organizing the relocation effort had to make their own decisions in the first days.

Yevhenii B, Content Author:

In some incredibly horrible way, my first day at the company coincided with the first day of the war. The evening before now seems somewhat comical as I was so excited about how my first day at the office would go, how I’d introduce myself to the new team. All my dreams were to fit into a new team. That night I couldn’t sleep, countless times repeating various ways of presenting myself. I couldn’t sleep because of this feeling of some huge wave of changes that were coming into my life. With these thoughts and the pleasant anticipation of the future, I fell asleep.

At 5 AM, there was a loud explosion. My life is now divided between BEFORE and AFTER: for me, my family, and my motherland Ukraine. On that very same day, I hastily packed my things and returned to the small town near Kyiv, where I’ve been living and working for the past 14 days of the war. Some days are “hotter”, some days, there is aggrieved silence – scary as it seems a beast is lurking. 

During these 2 weeks, invaders’ bombs have dramatically changed the city. The infrastructure continues to suffer much. I have somewhat limited access to the Internet. My new teammates turned out to be real enthusiasts who find great relief in our work, thereby contributing to our victory. While occupants are destroying our homes and trying to separate us, we are building bridges with each other and quickly becoming a real team.

Yuliya S, Communications Manager: 

I joined the company on March 2nd, 2022. I was at home with my husband, 18-month-old son, and our family dog in Vasylkiv, one of the first cities hit by Russian rockets on February 24th. I will never forget the sound of the 5 explosions I heard. My brand-new two-story home shook, the windows shook, the doors rattled. Luckily, my great-grandmother, who survived the Second World War, left me an apartment in Ternopil decades ago. As a Canadian-Ukrainian, I choose to remain in Ukraine and help with volunteer efforts as much as possible. I am also actively doing TV interviews to convey that Russia is a terrorist state. The Russian army is attacking innocent people, bombing schools, hospitals, clinics, killing children, women, and the elderly. Russia needs to be stopped! Putin must be stopped! 

As far as working from home during the war – it is difficult but helpful at the same time. This is certainly not how I envisioned my first week at work. Since Russia viciously attacked Ukraine, most of our daily work meetings start with a conversation about the war, and today, a simple “How are you?” means so much more than ever. 

Since the Russian attack, some of Viseven’s Ukrainian employees have combined their daily work with volunteering efforts. Some have chosen to evacuate to other countries in Europe, while others have joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine or the Territorial defense. Viseven employees continue to work and deliver the best possible results while supporting Ukraine from different locations across the country and the world. 

Viseven specialists are arranging their work in different ways according to their (very different) physical locations. The prevailing sentiment is working as hard as possible to ensure things keep functioning in this difficult time.

Hanna S, SMM Manager:

I stayed in Kyiv, Ukraine, till March 1st and managed my routine workflow under ballistic missiles, sleeping at ground zero in the garage for five nights. I decided to evacuate my kids spontaneously as the explosions became too close to my house, though the day before, I stuffed my fridge with food for the nearest time.

Being on my way to Berlin, the most challenging thing was to stay calm. What’s more, there were no charges or sockets for smartphones/laptops in random trains, only those I took beforehand. Staying in the info flow and in touch with parents who decided to stay in Kyiv and teammates to cover daily tasks are extremely important no matter what. 

My message to the world is clear – stand with Ukraine, help Ukrainians get rid of the evil that Putin’s regime brought upon the whole world; otherwise, the butterfly effect may be the size of a tsunami…

Denys M, Product Manager: 

I am currently in the city of Zhytomyr, where the Russian armed forces targeted both military and civilian infrastructure. Russian missiles recently destroyed a local school, an oil depot was also hit nearby, and air raid sirens go on and off. Despite the obvious dangers, I try to focus on the positive. I manage to attend online meetings and calls even from the corridor where my family shelters when the air raid sirens go off. 

I also do my best to find time to volunteer and assist people in need during the war. I was also instrumental in coordinating the company’s message to foreign governments about Russia’s attack on Ukraine. 

As far as work goes, it’s important to hang in there and envision a brighter future ahead. Please keep doing what you do best, commit as much time as possible to your job to maintain the processes already in place, and of course, believe in Ukraine and its incredible people. Ukraine will stand! 

Some have stories that could fit into action movies – and would really prefer them to be just that: movies. Nevertheless, they keep on working.

Dmitry Sokolov, Brand Manager

It started early in the morning on February 24th: I was lying in bed and heard an explosion. After a few hours, I was at my sister’s apartment at the other end of Kyiv. We decided to move to the Rivne region with her husband and toddler son on the following day. We encountered a Ukrainian tank at a crossing several kilometers outside of Kyiv. When it was right in front of our car, some sort of projectile came out flying from the wood nearby, exploding next to the tank. We were only 7 meters away from it. 

The nights in Kyiv afterward were unnaturally silent, with the only sounds being the trembling window glasses and the creaking swings at children’s playgrounds. The days were divided between remote work (through secure systems) and getting each other to calm down. Later on, there was no running water. The bombings got even more intense, so we got back on the road. We made it. 

I am now working in full mode; at least the routines were not disrupted.

Alla Manokhina, Head of Design :

On February 24th, I woke up early to make some breakfast for kids, going to school the first time after the quarantine. Suddenly my mother-in-law called saying – “What are doing? What school? THE WAR HAS STARTED. Kharkiv, Kyiv, Zhytomyr and others were bombed this night.” I told the kids that no one was going anywhere, and our lives changed that day.

The first days were rather calm in Zhytomyr. Every day, we met with the teams to check if everyone was alright and who could work. Some of the guys volunteered from the first days, while others stayed in place to work even during air raid sirens. 

I decided to relocate with my kids and pets once the shelling intensified. I drove to the other side of the country to stay at the apartment of my teammate. These days we all try to pitch in and help each other as much as possible. I chose to go to Poland to keep my children safe. To be honest, I keep thinking about the people left in Ukraine – parents, relatives, friends, colleagues; checking the news, calling at night after the news of ongoing air raids to make sure that everyone is okay. And hoping that it will be over soon.

Russia’s war on Ukraine is not only a local problem. It is a global disaster with horrific consequences for the world. The war that Russia started will go down in history as one of the darkest moments for humanity. Putin’s regime is killing innocent children, women, and men, threatening the very foundations of democracy and human rights. 

Viseven is a global company that has offices in many countries, but our Ukrainian staff is an integral part of the company’s success. We call upon the world to stop Russia’s war against innocent people. We urge you to speak out, protest, write to your leaders, ask NATO to close the sky over Ukraine, supporting the people that are courageous enough to stand up to the Russian aggression.

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