How we live during the war. Stories of Refacians (Part I)

From tech workers to volunteers and baby food experts

How we live during the war. Stories of Refacians (Part I)

Hey world, it’s Reface. We are still here, in Ukraine, where Russia's unprovoked invasion of our country has been going on for over a month. We continue to work as a tech startup and help Ukraine, the army, and volunteers.

Our team consists of talented people — developers, creatives, office managers, team leads, and many others. Since 24th of February, they have been combining several jobs, expanding their regular work activities to help civilians and defenders of Ukraine. We’re sharing some of their stories here.

Dima Horshkov

Product Manager at Reface

— Before the war, I was involved in product development at Reface and searching for a product-market fit for our new projects. In my free time, I learned to play the piano and went to sports. I am from Mariupol, where my mother and relatives live. But on February 24, I was in Tbilisi, Georgia.

The first 72 hours were a terrible nightmare: I spent 16-17 hours a day online.

I had to keep in touch with my relatives and friends in Ukraine and do everything I could: constantly checking the news, coordinating and navigating people to safe regions, and searching for gas stations with available fuel and safe roads. I was a remote navigator for all my friends in Ukraine.

I created a Telegram channel for my friends in Ukraine to share the most up-to-date information, and watched thousands of news clips a day from 50 sources and selected the most relevant ones for the channel.

I also helped my colleague develop the UA Tech Power community. It soon united over a thousand Ukrainian professionals from various fields who organized teams and are now helping Ukraine on the technological and information frontlines.

Now I’m focused on helping my native Mariupol and its citizens since the Russian troops blocked the city.

My mother spent a month there, and I wasn’t able to contact her. People were posting terrible evidence of the destruction of the city done by Russian invaders, but no one knew how to help.

So I started a fundraising campaign to help the defenders of Mariupol and looked for ways to evacuate people. We raised over a million hryvnias for drones and are currently raising funds to purchase thermal imagers.

The blockade of Mariupol continues. To help the city, people began to organize by carrying humanitarian aid, evacuating the victims, and collecting donations for defense. We have already achieved a lot, but not enough for the final goal.

Our team of 20 Mariupol residents living in different cities and having relatives in Mariupol, united to help the city and people under occupation. We also publish news about Mariupol for Western audiences covering the situation, translating it into English, and sharing the truth from eyewitnesses.

The war has taught me to stop procrastinating and to do things right away. We’ve all learned to cooperate for a common goal, and we’ll carry this skill through the war and beyond. The war has shown that Ukrainians are a very powerful community with a belligerent spirit.

We’ll win because none of us agree to lose. We protect our values and freedom.

The Russians want the impossible – to enslave the free people. They lack their own values and unity. So they have already lost this war.

Alya Shandra

Creative Marketing Manager at Reface

— On the first day of war, I was sleepless. Around 3 a.m even before the bombing started, I was dressed with my things packed. I was so terrified that I felt sick and wanted to jump in the car and escape. Apparently, my instincts were right. When everything started to explode, I went to the bathroom and started calling all my relatives — "The war has begun."

I’m a creative marketer, constantly researching new ideas and inspiration for new marketing solutions. My job is related to large amounts of data, analysis and rethinking. I would be lying if I said that my work has not changed since February 24.

I’m still analyzing large amounts of information and exploring sources, especially social platforms. It’s sometimes hard to switch to entertainment, but our team and Ukrainian meme-makers support me even in the darkest times. However, we are now more focused on global needs.

We’ll win because we are together

Now I combine creative work with volunteering, fundraising, and providing for and helping refugees. All this is possible because I work with the best people in the best country.

My brother is in the Kyiv Territorial Defense Forces, and my dad joined the ranks of self-defense. Many of my friends and relatives are in the TDF and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I think their life now is a mix of Cossack's drive, deep love, fear, and fatalism.

My brother told me: "We are all doing enough, although many think they are not. Those who left Ukraine feel guilty. Those who stayed regret that they hadn’t joined as self-defense, TDF, or volunteers. There are those who had wished to fight in the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the front line. Ukrainians on the front line wish they could destroy more enemies. And those who have protected many civilians in different parts of the country would also like to do it in Mariupol, Chernihiv, or Kharkiv... and the circle goes on".

But everyone is already doing a lot: those who left or remained, volunteers, those in TDF, and on the front line. You are doing enough, and you have to accept this.

We’ll win because there is no other ending. What should have frightened and broken us only awakened a stronger rage and incredible strength to fight and live. We’ll win because we are together.

Eugene Chistyakov

Lead of Content at Reface

— On the first day of war, I woke up at night from the air alarms. The sounds were so loud that it seemed as if they were right in my apartment. It was a strange, scary, and dull morning. I went outside, saw desperate people in a panic, and realized that the full-scale war had begun. I went to the country's West but soon understood that I needed to return to Kyiv. I just felt like my place is there.

I’m responsible for the creative production of the Reface app, which includes planning and organizing workflows in the team and monitoring the implementation of tasks and creative work.

This month, I became an expert in baby food. I am also a master of sports in diapers.

Now I combine my job with volunteering. Together with other Kyiv creatives, we are engaged in humanitarian aid — from helping mothers with small children to providing for the Ukrainian forces on the frontlines. We work seven days a week, receiving humanitarian aid and distributing it to those in need. This month, I became an expert in baby food. I am also a master of sports in diapers: I can determine what a child needs according to their weight.

I’ve always considered myself a stress-resistant person, and the war only strengthened these qualities. I use my skills in management not only at work but also in life — for instance, to quickly collect a package for my mom and put everything she needs in there.

Emotional release is vital to all of us right now, and humor is one of the things that helps us stay strong. To cheer up Ukrainians, our team launched the entertainment channel @chornobaiky (join us on TikTok, Telegram and Instagram) where we share the best memes everyday.

The whole world understands that Ukraine is the icon of the struggle between good and evil. I’m happy and touched that the Ukrainian people are united and braver than ever before.