Elena Fabrykant is marketing manager of a company that connects European web developers with American startups.
Today, she’s working in a bomb shelter.
That’s because she and her company, Lemon.io, are based in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Fabrykant wants the world to know that, despite the Russian conflict currently dominating headlines, Ukrainians are still on the job.
“Despite the alarming situation, Ukrainian business continues working,” she related as the country’s larger, more powerful neighbor continued a brutal assault that has shocked and galvanized the world. “Companies don’t close. Mostly, CEOs try to assist their employees with relocation to safer places and keep paying salaries. Ukrainian and foreign clients are largely well-informed and eager to help, so the business flow isn’t disrupted.”
After the invasion started, Alexander Volodarsky, the CEO of Lemon.io, announced that the company was fully engaged in supporting its employees, its developer partners, and its home country. Lemon.io donated what Fabrykant called “a substantial sum” to Povernys Zhyvym (“Come Back Alive”), a charitable fund that supports the Ukrainian military. In addition, all the company’s profits in February and March will be donated to the army, she added. Many foreign clients of Lemon.io also announced their intention to help Ukraine by continuing to pay developer partners there, even if their output is interrupted by the war.
At the same time, many Lemon.io employees, Fabrykant pointed out, have become volunteers in the Ukrainian military, translating articles for international media, delivering basic, life-sustaining goods to people in need and otherwise doing their part to help the state.
Meanwhile, a world away in the American Midwest, Vladimir Gendelman runs a small business that makes print marketing materials for clients ranging from Bed, Bath & Beyond and Hilton Hotels to the Girl Scouts. He is also a native of Ukraine who has seven employees living and working in the country. One of them managed to escape to Poland shortly after Vladimir Putin started his campaign. The rest are stuck in Ukraine and, naturally, command Gendelman’s attention these days.
“Since the Russian invasion, our U.S. team has been working around the clock to help our employees get to safety and make sure they have what they need in terms of money, food, shelter and other supplies,” said Gendelman, CEO of Company Folders, which he started 19 years ago in Pontiac, Michigan, just outside Detroit. He and his colleagues have been in constant contact with a retired U.S. Army colonel regarding tactics and strategic targets, information they’ve shared with the employees to help them stay safe. The company is using multiple communication apps to keep connected to its workforce there.
Gendelman’s Ukranian team understands from experience that, as he put it, “things that are bad often get worse,” as they were based in Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, when the Russo-Ukranian War broke out in February 2014. Bearing that in mind, employees are being urged to stock up on food and supplies, while the company has wired them money in the event banking services are disrupted.
“I feel responsible for everyone who works for this company, many of them for over a decade, and it is horrible to see them in the path of a Russian army that seems bent on inflicting maximum destruction on their country,” said Gendelman, adding, “Our success is largely due to these talented and hard-working Ukrainians.”
Business leaders like Gendelman — many with Ukranian ties, others with none except for our common humanity — are working overtime to ensure that the people of the war-torn nation get the aid they desperately need.
Randall Ward, CEO of Massachusetts-based app developer platform Appfire — which has employees in both Ukraine and Russia — issued a position statement on the conflict, throwing his support behind the Ukrainians. “We condemn the military and political actions of Russia against Ukraine, and we will not support a Russian military or political presence in Ukraine,” he wrote. “Appfire has served the greater Atlassian community for 16 years and, like many of you, we have customers and employees all over the world. Right now, we have team members leaving their homes in Ukraine, some of whom are staying with Appfire colleagues who have opened their hearts and homes in Bulgaria and Poland due to the unjust and illegal acts of war taking place in Ukraine.”
He also announced that Appfire would no longer sell its technology or provide support services to Russia, Belarus, or any other country that supports the Ukrainian invasion.
Meanwhile, Ward reported that Appfire was “actively focused” on helping its people working in Ukraine, providing alternative communication channels, offering financial assistance to team members and their families, adjusting compensation to account for local cost of living for relocated team members, providing dedicated channels for resource sharing and support and making sure everyone can take as much paid time off as they need. The company is also working with the charity Pledge 1% to raise funds for Ukraine.
Ward encouraged his fellow tech leaders to back Ukraine, writing: “We are not alone in our grief, expression of outrage, and desire to take a stand.”
Many companies with no direct business ties to Ukraine are putting their people and resources to work to help the country.
With a client base spanning 90 countries, London-based mobile health management platform Medix Global is spearheading a massive effort to ship medical products, baby food and other supplies to Ukraine. Though Medix is highly experienced in navigating crisis and delivering humanitarian aid, it has been stunned by the enormity of this challenge, according to its founder and CEO Sigal Atzmon. “It is easy to support refugees in Poland or even in Lviv [a city in western Ukraine 70 km from Polish border], but almost impossible to send medications to people in need in Pryluky [a city in north-central Ukraine],” she said. “The situation is devastating and heartbreaking and we’re doing whatever we can to help.”
Fortunately, the level of determination to help Ukraine is also enormous — and for Atzmon, as for so many other business leaders, there was no question but to get involved.
“I couldn’t stand still with this brutal, unilateral act of violence, nor can I keep silent,” she said. “Supporting the Ukrainians represents my act of social responsibility but also my outcry, my voice in the battle between democracy and autocracy.”