What Stories Are Coming Out of Ukraine?
For those who pay attention, the story is a familiar one. Groups of people seeking refuge, swelling to millions of people displaced across the continent. They come in search of the basics: food, water, safety. And eventually, they look for more, including jobs and financial security.
But there’s something about the Ukrainian crisis that is different. We’re more likely to be sympathetic to those from the country, perhaps recognizing that we too could be in the path of Russian aggression in the future. And their stories are all too relatable.
At my company, we’ve done numerous interviews with our employees, on a volunteer basis. We have well over 100 Ukrainian employees, and some are still in the country.
This means they’re still in harm’s way, potentially.
For the ones who got out, their overriding concern was their children. One told us, “I wanted to protect [my child], and I wanted to keep him mentally healthy — war is high-pressure and messages about air attacks and sirens day after day would hurt him.”
Another said, “The journey out of Ukraine was difficult. I knew I had to do it because of my son.”
Over and over again, it was concern for their children that motivated them to get out.
“My wife is pregnant, and that’s why I made the decision to move to Germany in mid-February. I also have a son who’s 3 years old,” said one of our QA developers.
And the journey was stressful, with parents unable to describe exactly where they were going or when anything would happen — the relocation of millions of Ukrainians over a period of a couple of weeks put incredible strain on the countries bordering it.
Many of our colleagues consider themselves among the lucky ones. They were able to escape the country to keep their families safe.
Stress and Fear
The war in Ukraine has been going on for over 8 years — specifically since Russia annexed Crimea and moved forces into the Donbas region. However, for most people — even within Ukraine — it was something they learned to live with.
“When they occupied it and people were fleeing, in other cities it was life as normal. People could visit restaurants, go to movies and ignore it. That’s why it wasn’t so polarizing even in Ukraine,” noted one colleague.
But it still shifted public opinion. Many felt that Russia wasn’t this benevolent country that would support them. Instead, it became this very real threat. This was why many started moving toward greater integration with the EU and NATO. And it may have even been the reason why Zelensky started to become more popular — Petro Poroshenko, the president of the late 2010s, wasn’t able to deal with corruption effectively, and that level of corruption was substantial compared to most EU nations.
And as the Russian buildup on the borders with Ukraine increased during 2022, many had a sense of déjà vu. They’d seen it with Donbas and Crimea. And for what other reason would so many troops be positioned there? But there was hope that it was all a dramatic exercise.
“We thought it was just to scare the Ukrainian people and our government to pursue a more Russian-friendly policy. We didn’t really believe they would start this war until the invasion happened,” explains a colleague.
Once it happened, it happened quickly. As the invasion hit, it was time to make a decision. One that was made quickly by several. But the journey out of the country was terrifying.
“The worst part was the journey out of Ukraine. I thought any aircraft was a threat or perhaps a stray rocket might hit us. I dreaded the sound of sirens,” says one.
Safety at Last
While we have many colleagues who are safe, they worry about those they left behind.
“I’m very worried about everyone else who is there. Not only my friends but everyone in the cities I’ve called home. They can’t all move, and they’re not safe,” a colleague explains. “They have a basement underneath the flats that they can retreat to, but it’s still not the safest place. But it’s what they have.”
And there are some who have left colleagues behind. Several are still in Ukraine because they can’t leave family members behind. Or they are already in occupied territory and can’t leave the region. For them, they don’t feel safe for as long as Russia is in the country.
But the sense of being Ukrainian persists. They’re proud of their country, and they want it to win, even if they can’t participate in the fighting. And they believe it’s going to win.
“It’s home. And I know Russia won’t leave tomorrow. But it will happen.”
Wildix’s collegues kindly contributed their stories , and we will be publishing them as a book to ensure their recollections are forever available to future generations.