The One Thing You Should Know About Ukraine

A First-Hand Account of Russia’s War on Ukraine from a latakoo Team Member

Vova and his wife were both born and raised in Ukraine.

Moving swiftly to the underground parking garage when the dreaded sirens go off outside their apartment has become the norm for one of our team members and his wife who live in Ukraine. Vova, who has been a software engineer with latakoo for the last 7 years, lives in the Western part of the country that is currently under attack by Russia. He said the sirens, meant to warn anyone within earshot of potential threats, have been going off about four times a day. In fact, he had to abruptly jump off the Zoom call during our weekly latakoo team meeting last week. We were all wearing colors of the Ukrainian flag that day, and had changed our virtual backgrounds to show our support.

“That’s why I left the meeting because of the alert system sirens,” said Vova. “It means that something like a flying object enters our region.”

Vova, 29, said the scariest moment so far was when the Russians flew a drone into the region. It was thankfully defused by the Ukrainian air defense system. He and his wife are sleeping in two hour shifts to ensure they don’t sleep through a warning siren. When the sirens do blare, they take refuge in their concrete parking garage. Vova said each time they go, they grab a backpack sitting by the door that they’ve filled with snacks and toiletries because they never know how long they’ll be stuck in the shelter. Their car is parked in the garage and provides a more comfortable place for them to sit or sleep. Not everyone in the shelter has a car, so Vova and his neighbors brought in folding chairs so no one has to sit on the cold, hard surface. They’ve also added a shelf to keep food items that don’t require preparation, and a portable toilet for the group to use.

Vova said he and his wife are nervous and extremely angry about the situation their country is in.

“I feel anger in terms of Russians and I feel anger because I can’t do anything except for volunteering,” said Vova. “You can only do what you can do from where you are.”

Instead of worrying about themselves, Vova and his wife have been focusing on the safety of others. As refugees from Eastern Ukraine flood into their city, they’re helping coordinate places for them to live and are donating clothing and other necessary items.  They’ve made trips to drug stores to search for vital medications refugees are requesting, but Vova said finding it has been a big challenge because most drug stores are closed, or the shelves are empty.

Leaving their home is also difficult and scary. Authorities are instructing people to stay indoors between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. When they do get out, it’s only to go to the market to buy necessities. Gas stations are out of gas, so driving anywhere is no longer an option. Vova said there are police everywhere in his neighborhood. Citizens are required to stop and show documentation and passports if they do need to leave the city.

Vova, who’s a BMW car enthusiast, has been staying on top of what’s happening across the country through an online community he was already a part of. The group, which typically chats and bonds over their car obsession, is made up of Ukrainians who live in various cities all over the country. People are constantly posting pictures and videos to keep each other informed about what’s happening where they live.

Those living in Kyiv, the capital and most populated city in Ukraine which is under siege, said they’ve had to sit in shelters anywhere from 11 to 18 hours at a time.

“One of them said a man went out just to buy food for his pregnant wife and was shot right at the entrance of their parking lot,” said Vova.

Getting his mind off the horrible events happening to his homeland is nearly impossible, but Vova said being able to continue working from home through this war and developing new technologies for latakoo has helped him de-stress and takes his mind off of what’s going on around him. He knows his work is also vital to journalists covering the war in his homeland. Vova is also an extremely talented musician, and has been known to show off those skills to our latakoo team and clients. In 2020, he put his own latakoo spin on the Beatles hit “Let It Be” and played a portion of “Jingle Bells” with his electric guitar for our 2021 holiday video.

The latakoo team is in constant communication with Vova via Zoom and Skype. Everyone keeps asking Vova, “How can we help? What can we do?” He said the best thing is to know where Ukraine is located.

“Before this, the hardest part was that everyone saw Ukraine as part of Russia,” said Vova. “We are always trying to say we’re not Russians – we’re completely different.”

Vova finds some solace in the fact that he is also helping journalists tell the stories of Ukrainians by using latakoo, the service that he helps to support. 

We will continue to keep you updated on Vova’s situation and pass any information along he feels is important to share. If you’re looking for ways to help, Vova recommended these two donation organizations: Come Back Alive and Humanitarian Assistance.

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