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Goodbye Ukraine, be well

Due to the accumulation of travel over the past two years, I have never really got around to writing a blog about my trip to Ukraine† I was in Kharkov for a week in 2020 (also known as: Kharkiv), in the extreme east of Ukraine, against the Russian border† I was there to meet the IT team and to discuss the progress of the development of the App I was working on at the time. During that week, I learned a lot from Ukraine and spoke extensively with the people I worked with. Also about the already serious war situation in Donetsk, about 200 kilometers from Kharkov.

Beautiful architecture in Kharkiv, Ukraine
Beautiful architecture in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Crimea and MH17

Because it was already restless in Ukraine in 2020. There was a lot of talk about it because the people in Kharkov were very concerned. Not surprising, of course, because they live a stone's throw from Russia and there was still daily fighting, just a two-hour drive from the city. It was the aftermath of the persistent separatists and the annexation of Crimea.

Government Building in Kharkiv, Ukraine
Government Building in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Crimea was occupied by Russia in 2014. Since then, things have never really been quiet in the Donetsk region, in eastern Ukraine. It also went very wrong then flight MH17 was shot down by a Russian book missile. All 298 on board were killed, including 193 Dutch people† To this day, Russia denies any involvement…

Ukraine welcomed me with open arms

Despite the constant threat of war, life in Ukraine goes on as usual. Logical, because what else can you do? Sitting at home on the couch waiting for things to go wrong? That's not how people are put together.

I went to Ukraine to work on a blockchain app. In the end I was only in Ukraine for a week, but in such a country you quickly get an idea of ​​what they suffer in daily life. I was welcomed with open arms. Of course, in addition to meeting about the App, eating, drinking and enjoying together was an important part of the trip. After all, we had to get to know each other better to improve remote collaboration. Knowing each other and who you are dealing with is always good in a business relationship.

Outside of work there was plenty of time for other activities and topics of conversation, including the war that was already lurking at the time. It was always a recurring topic for them and that is understandable, because there was just fighting in their country.

Every evening we were invited somewhere to eat and drink. Saying no was not an option! And when the alcohol flows freely and you spend tens of hours together for several days, you quickly get to know each other better.

Russian culture and the many synagogues in Ukraine expose the past with Russia. Many people here also speak Russian.
Russian culture and the many synagogues in Ukraine expose the past with Russia. Many people here also speak Russian.

Ukraine wants to be western

I got to know a number of people well and what struck me at the time was that a large part of the population spoke English quite well. Certainly the younger generation spoke fluent English, but people of average age were also able to make themselves understood. When I asked how this came about, I got the simple answer that they just want to be western and put a lot of time and energy into it. For years.

Ice cold outside but always a warm welcome inside

This has everything to do with the future that the people there have in mind. They want nothing more than to join the EU – while many of them still speak Russian and Russian history and influences are still abundantly present in the city. Of course some are also pro-Russian, but the majority really looked to the west.

A large Russian Synagogue and an old but very beautiful Lada
A large Russian Synagogue and an old but very beautiful Lada

So they invest a lot of time in learning English from an early age. They have good universities and they focus a lot on information technology, of course to serve the west. You may not expect it, but in Ukraine there are many large IT companies that build websites and apps for many Western companies. After all, we weren't there for nothing.

First of all because it is of course a lot cheaper there, but also because the quality of the work is above average.

Everywhere you walk in Kharkiv you will come across these imposing buildings that are beautifully illuminated at night.
Everywhere you walk in Kharkiv you come across these kinds of imposing buildings that are beautifully illuminated at night.

Goodbye Ukraine, be well

Now, two years later, it hurts to see the images of the war. Also in Kharkov, the city where I was for a week and where I took all the photos in this blog, there is now fighting. I've messaged a few people I've worked with to encourage them, but these messages don't get through. Perhaps because communication has been shutting down the country by the Russians.

It's a scary thought and so close to me. I hope the lovely people I met are safe. They didn't ask for this...

At least one thing seems certain, Ukraine as we know it is coming to an end. Putin said live on TV this morning that he plans to completely demilitarize Ukraine and oust the government. Which basically means that Ukraine will no longer exist in its current form. All we can do now is hope it will be over soon, without too many casualties.

Farewell Ukraine, be well.

I know Ukraine ?? like a land where west and east meet ??† A country with a lot of unique architecture ?.

? A country where people welcome you everywhere with open arms and give you everything they have to offer… Even if they have nothing to spend ?

? Where the streets are spotless because they pick up dirt from the street right away ?

? Where almost all of them speak English because they dream of joining the EU ??because it opens up possibilities for the future of their children.

Unfortunately, the latter now seems further away than ever… I hope the lovely people I've met are safe. They didn't ask for this... ?

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– Traveled 3+ months per year, 10 years in a row
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– Life is short, make the most out of it in literal sense.
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  • Nice to read your blog.
    I am now making a trip through Ukraine and at the moment of writing I will be in Kharkiv until the 20th, then I will go to Odessa by train.

    I can only confirm that Ukraine is a very beautiful country with really very hospitable people.

    It is sad that every time in history a dictator destroys the dreams of ordinary people.

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