“Expertise is my weapon.” New stories about our war-life balance (Part III)
Asked our Product Manager, VP of People and Head of IT
We have always been proud to be a Ukrainian startup, so from the first day of the Russian invasion on February 24, we actively supported Ukraine financially and by our employees volunteering. After two months of the war, we can clearly see that the volunteer movement is being made into an integral part of Reface's DNA.
At the same time, we continue to work, launch new ML technologies and products, and entertain Reface users with new content in the app.
Today, we will share three stories about life during the war from our Product Manager, VP of People and Head of IT.
Product Manager at Reface
— I spent two weeks in the Territorial Defense Forces in a village near Kyiv, where I moved after the first explosions in February.
The first experience of the night watch, holding weapons, making massive Molotov cocktails, binoculars surveillance, talking on walkie-talkies, checking documents at our checkpoint, building barricades, a humanitarian aid agreement, resolving issues for villagers and the district. I liked it, as I realized that it was helpful.
When I could finally focus on my teamwork, I moved to be with my parents in the west of Ukraine and continued to fight on the financial and informational frontlines.
I regularly send donations, including to my friends' projects. Especially when I'm in a bad mood. I also share as much reliable information about the war as possible. I help cyber troops block Russian propaganda bots on social media. I also participated in collective DDOS initiatives and unsubscribed from all Russian-language services, bloggers, and resources.
I'm still in my “shell” and feel like none of this is real. I had the feeling of a lost life.
There were a lot of emotional rollercoasters. I spent about a week in a complete emotional swamp, feeling prickly and toxic. It was hard to focus.
Negative emotions are very poisonous. But all problems can be solved together, and it is necessary to speak them out. Especially now, when everyone is tired of stress. There’s nothing impossible for a good talk to solve.
I actively doom-scrolled during February and March, but now I follow the news less. My sleep has improved a bit.
I try not to complain about anything and do what I do best. I’m taking a Python course and even rode my bike twice, which I brought from Kyiv. I tried to get back to my old life as a cycling enthusiast, training for a new start.
I’ve kept two critical thoughts in my mind since the beginning of the active phase of the war. The first is that good always triumphs over evil. The second is that enslaved people are not allowed in heaven.
Despite the clichés, the first line is compelling because the strength of Ukrainian unity and our loud narrative are unprecedented.
We recently celebrated Easter. In the sense of rebirth or resurrection, I think Easter helped us end this toxic relationship with Russia that we never wanted — it was inevitable.
The second thought can be interpreted at different levels. I like the version where we’ve already got a ticket to Valhalla.
The most important is that we are now fighting for our freedom and interests. And according to the facts, we are good at it. We have one of the best armies and the best people on the front lines.
There is nothing better than the news that the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed a dozen more enemy tanks or planes today. Or watching a video of an ailing Putin digging his hands into a table to control his tremor. As a Christian, I wish him a pure death. This cheers me up.
VP of People at Reface
— We all have ups and downs these months. I was lucky to be safe with my family for the last month, and the feeling of a physical threat to life disappeared afterward, as I don’t hear air raids and I’m not afraid of sudden sounds.
Dealing with emotions is more complex, but my pre-war routine of sleep, sports, and meditation helps a lot. Guilt has become my close friend, and I’m learning to live with it. I’ve heard in some podcasts that guilt caused by anything is a specific feature of every Ukrainian now, and I am Ukrainian, so that's it.
I’ve chosen expertise as my weapon.
For the first three weeks after Russia’s invasion, I stayed in Ukraine; then, I moved to the Netherlands. Now I’m in Poland and plan to return home. In each new place, adaptation begins again. But I build my life around my greatest stability — work, so having the table and the Internet are already enough for me to start.
I’ve chosen expertise as my weapon. I’ve been doing career counseling for two years now, and since March, I’ve been helping Ukrainians who had lost their jobs due to the war for free or for donations to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. I’ve had thirty consultations, but there's a lot of work ahead because 53% of our compatriots remain out of work.
I also held a webinar on passing an interview in English, which already has over 2,000 views. I'm glad that I can be helpful.
Financial support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine directly and through funds like KOLO is simply a must. I can perform this necessary function on our civilian home front, thanks to my work.
I loved my working routine, and getting it back was very important. Being in HR during a crisis requires extra responsibility, as you’re changing your life and becoming a go-to person for the team at the same time.
Crisis communication has become a big side project for the People team and me. It’s essential to check the location of each Refacian, how they are doing, and whether they need any help. The next task was to return to regular life (as much as possible). I’m continuing to work on it even now.
Another exciting and unplanned project is the relocation of the team. What conditions can we offer? What is the cost of living? And what is the labor market like in different countries? There are many questions to be explored and we still have a long way to go, but we are already taking the first steps toward relocation.
Our priorities have changed, but our values remain the same strength. Realizing that material things are nothing, you can easily fit all necessary stuff in one suitcase.
Once, I asked my friend who joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine if everything would be fine, and he answered — Well, do we have any other options? I’ve been living with this thought for two months. Have you seen our military forces? And what about volunteers doing the impossible? I look at the Ukrainians, feel the global support, and I know that our victory is only a matter of time.
Before I go to sleep, I think about going back home to Kyiv. I dream about reuniting with my loved ones. I think about my new goal and what it will be. I wonder what our life will be like after Ukraine’s victory.
Head of IT at Reface
— For me, the war started with my mother's call at 7 am. She said, "It has begun." Then I met with my colleagues in the Reface HQ in Kyiv, and we started to take people abroad.
The first hours and days of the war were very chaotic and emotional, as people were experiencing some complicated feelings for the first time. However, having a simple common goal helps to cope with panic. Our goal was getting on the road to the destination. As a result, we drove almost 60 hours to reach the border.
The world seemed very simple to me those days. There is a war, and missiles are hitting all regions, but I have people in the car, and my main task is not to close my eyes.
Many things in Reface infrastructure work automatically; no human intervention is required for long. And we were preparing infrastructure for a possible war in advance. Before leaving Kyiv, I gave full access to other people on the team in case something happened to me. We moved everything from office servers to our cloud storage about a month earlier. It sounds sad, but we did everything we could to ensure that the company could continue to operate even if the office was destroyed.
The only thing I didn't do until the last moment was pack up my alarm suitcase. I just took my backpack out of the closet and put it in the room the day before. But I didn't fill it because I thought it was the wrong game with the Universe. If the Universe sees a backpack full, the war will definitely begin.
In addition to regular working projects, my team and I help the Ukrainian government and intelligence agencies to achieve various cyber goals for our victory.
Now is the time when business is helping the state in all possible ways. And because of the need to get a quick result, the authorities in Ukraine have become more flexible.
Interestingly, I even had a chance to meet with a Ukrainian cloud provider. Now I am actively communicating with Google Cloud and convincing our government to cooperate with Google Cloud. It is just as safe but hundreds of times more convenient than our Ukrainian Cloud. This would help us work much faster in the interests of Ukraine.
Ukraine always wins. We probably already have it in our genes. Ukrainians don't give up.
What helps me to hold on? I had some plans for life before the war and they did not change. So I need the war to end as soon as possible to keep going to my goals.
I spent some time in the Ukrainian Carpathians, where my friends and I did our job and sometimes tried take our minds off and enjoy the nature. Now I am back in Kyiv, continuing my work in the team with renewed vigour.