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Unity, support, and freedom: Avenga people sharing their war-response stories
February 24, 2022, was the day that changed the world. A peace-loving democratic country, fell victim to the atrocities of Russia’s war machine as Vladimir Putin embarked upon a full-scale invasion of Ukraine; an unprovoked war crime that has left millions speechless and homeless, but not hopeless.
The Ukrainian people are standing tall in the face of aggression by showcasing vividly to the entire world that tyranny, propaganda, and nazism will never prevail over freedom, dignity, and democracy. As we’ve marked one hundred and fifty days of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Avenga shares stories of its folks: the Ukrainians who have taken different war-response paths, still united around the ultimate aim: the prevalence of good over evil.
Pavlo Umanets, Director of Group Operations
Pavlo Umanets oversees the IT infrastructure and systems that are operated by Avenga Global. Additionally, Pavlo is the one who runs the implementation of new systems, regulates acquisitions, and deals with IT operations. He claims that his job title might tell you that he is all into pure operations (well, he is), but really he’s not.
“You cannot talk about information security without being in charge of the infrastructure. You have to oversee the system and know every loophole in it to make sure it’s closed before it’s misused by perpetrators” – Pavlo says. As you might have already guessed, among all people, Pavlo is the one who knows how twisted information can bring about a lot of undesired consequences. The horrific example of how Russian lies have been tolerated by many for the last eight years is nothing but a bug that was successfully embedded into the system of global information security.
A person who loves to have every single bit of every system he runs tidy and smooth, Pavlo had to witness his established life order falling apart within a matter of minutes. February 24 has become a kind of a rubicon for him, having set a new virtual division of life in motion. “Everything I’ve been doing at Avenga prior to that day now seems to be completely different.” Both physically and mentally, everything has been turned upside down for him.
It was up until five in the morning that his personal and work plans were looking bright and purposeful, as COVID-19 was at its low and it seemed that the year ahead would be full of new projects, fresh beginnings, and impending success… The sounds of the first missile hits seemed to have changed everything for everyone who had been so enthusiastic about the future at hand.
“As a father of three, an eight-year-old girl and two boys 6 years and 10 months, I was petrified for the safety and wellbeing of my children. It did not take much time for me to make a reasonable decision. I moved away to a safer place to keep my family away from the air raids, bombings, shelling, and the horror of war that my country was submerged into”.Pavlo and his family in Krakow
The Service Endurance Plan, developed at Avenga as a response to the amassing of Russian troops alongside the Ukrainian border, played a key role in his family’s quick transition to Poland. “I accepted an invitation from a colleague in Krakow. Sure, we spent a few days on the road and the lines of refugees were huge, but as soon as we crossed the border, the company made everything possible for me and my family to settle in as quickly as possible”. As soon as Pavlo and his family reached their destination, it was all hands on deck to make sure that they helped those who remained in Ukraine.
A lot of people from Avenga Krakow embarked upon a humanitarian mission without a moment’s hesitation. They collected donations and endowments from anyone willing to help. As a company, Avenga has provided a huge amount of funding in order to help the Ukrainian people deal with the truly horrific test that their nation has been subjected to. Tons and tons of cargo have been packed and shipped to Ukraine. At the Krakow office, there was no one indifferent to the tragic events the Ukrainians were suffering at the hands of the Kremlin’s dictator. Jan Biela-Abreu, who was Avenga Krakow’s director then, played a crucial role in initiating most of the Ukrainian humanitarian help projects. Pavlo and Jan Biela-Abreu, former Avenga Krakow Director, April 2022, Krakow
Pavlo stays in Krakow for now, thankful that his family has a permanent place to live without being threatened by ballistic and hypersonic missiles. He continues to work on IT Ops projects and the IT Ops integration stream with a company that Avenga acquired recently. “I’m devoted to work as well as trying to spend time with my family. Apart from that, every spare hour goes to volunteering activities: procuring stuff for the mobilized Avengas and the Ukrainian Armed Forces, but also doing logistics and other things needed. I am very much hoping for Ukraine’s victory and I’m looking forward to returning to my homeland”.
Victoria Kravchenko, Brand-Manager
“I remember how my parents and I were constantly intimidated, and even threatened by the pro-Russian (if not Russian) propaganda agents who’ve been pushing the Russian agenda in the region for as long as I can remember,” says Victoria. Yet, those are Vika’s (short for Victoria in Ukrainian) memories from long before the full-scale invasion commenced. The last eight years of her life were nothing short of a wild ride. Vika comes from Donetsk, the city where Russia started its war against Ukraine back in 2014, following the illegal annexation of Crimea.
Thinking that she would have to go through the same experience of fleeing her home and running for her life, like she did in 2014, was beyond understanding and acceptance. However, no one felt safe during those first days of the Russian invasion. Many Ukrainian people decided to leave and support their country from the outside, where they would have the physical and mental ability to do so. “I had to keep working against the odds. I wanted to help those in need: the army, the volunteers, and the refugees.” she says. Victoria fled Lviv to Katowice, Poland, where her parents live, then moved to Krakow, and then the company helped her move to Cologne, Germany, where she worked to ensure the continuity of Avenga’s brand communications around the globe.
Vika and her host family, Cologne, April 2022
Leaving her home for the second time, Vika’s mind was full of perplexing thoughts that eventually crystallized into a clear vision of how Russian propaganda has been twisting the reality in the East of Ukraine for these past eight years by lying that everyone living in the Western part of the country were Nazis..
“Having spent eight years in Lviv – the Russian propaganda’s epicenter of ‘Ukrainian Nazis’, I do assure you that if we are to talk about Nazis, we should definitely speak of those sitting in Kremlin. Living in Lviv, I’ve finally got a chance to embrace Ukrainian culture which was something I could never do in Donbas because of the ubiquitous Russian lies infiltrating every single scope of people’s lives. I still find it hard to imagine that Russia was instigating a war in Ukraine for eight years, killing Ukrainians, all the while saying that it was American money’ sponsoring Nazism in Ukraine. And, do you know what the worst part is? There were people who believed in that”.
Lviv and Donetsk are the two poles of the Russian narrative about Nazis. Donetsk was the victim-center and Lviv was dubbed the Nazi epicenter, both of which served as Vika’s homes for her entire life. Now, she has been forced to leave each of them because of the Russians who came to save Ukrainians from . . .the Ukrainians.
Vika’s second destination on her war-refugee journey was Krakow, Poland. “I actually felt lucky that I had joined Avenga before the war started as they had a war-response plan prepared”. With more than 175,000 Russians troops staged near the Ukrainian border by the end of 2021, the company had no other choice but to plan ahead as they couldn’t ignore Putin’s political shenanigans.
“I met many refugees at Avenga’s Krakow office and I felt like I already knew what those folks were going through as I already had a seasoned understanding of what it feels like to lose your home” – comments Vika. Having accomplished her humanitarian endeavors in Krakow, Poland, she moved to Cologne, Germany, where she kept on developing Avenga’s brand and making sure no one in this world forgets about what was happening in Ukraine.
Swamped with her professional and volunteer duties while far away from home, Vika did not forget about her artistic background. As a talented painter, she decided to create a project that would kill two birds with one stone: spread awareness on the events in Ukraine and fundraise for the needs of the Ukrainian refugees. Vika’s inspiration has found embodiment in “The Spirit of Ukraine” painting – an amazing portrayal of Ukraine as a loving, confident, and courageous woman that is not afraid of anything.
Vika sums up the idea behind the painting by saying “I wanted to create more than a picture. I wanted people to see the face and spirit of Ukraine. She is young, beautiful, and full of virtues… and yes, she is not afraid of any challenges coming her way”. “The Spirit of Ukraine” was presented to the citizens and guests of Cologne on June 18, in the Rheingarten. Everyone willing could write the words they associated with Ukraine on the painting.
The last couple of months of Vika’s sojourn in Germany has been devoted to the painting and her desire to remind people that the war was not over and that Ukraine still needs support. “I knew I was going to leave Avenga and indulge in my personal projects, as my mission here was over: Avenga’s is now known worldwide as a reliable tech partner that delivers results and not promises, regardless of the odds.” It seems like the painting was also Vika’s way of saying goodbye to a beautiful, yet a closed chapter of her life.Vika and “The Spirit of Ukraine”, Rheigarten, Gologne, 18 June
Now, Vika is back home in Lviv, where she keeps up with artistic, professional, and volunteering activities. As a person who knows what it takes to create a brand, Vika willingly shares her thoughts on what today’s brand of Ukraine is: “I think we’ve managed to show the entire world that the brand of Ukraine is about strength and an unbreakable spirit. They wanted to kill our identity and our individuality, but ended up finding an unmatched resistance of a united nation of free, loving, and creative people!”
Vlad Betsun, Marketing Expert
Here comes Vlad, one of the latest additions to Avenga’s global marketing team. His role is pretty straightforward in that he ensures that everything we communicate to our clients, partners, and readers comes across in a clear and business-savvy manner. With a PhD. in philosophy, Vlad is in his thirties, married, and has a cat that is gracefully named Persephone. A Ukrainian born in Russia, he spent half of his life in Eastern Ukraine, but now lives in Lviv. And, it is through this perspective that Vlad shares a narrative of his war effort, which is as integral and unbiased as they come. Vlad, Sardinia, Italy, 2017
As already mentioned, Vlad was born in Russia and moved with his family to Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine when he was a kid. His father was a serviceman in the Soviet and then the Ukrainian military, so they had to move a lot. Yet, he did not follow in his father’s footsteps and instead chose foreign languages over military craftsmanship as his path in life.
“I’ve always pursued foreign languages. I studied them at the Luhansk University before I moved to Lviv in 2013, where I indulged in philosophy. Such a combination of majors played a crucial role in shaping my outlook. Furthermore, I find it quite applicable to what I’m doing now: exploring the new boundaries for Avenga to bring sustainable solutions to businesses worldwide. I love what I do because it helps me engage in what Aristotle called the ‘desire to know’.”
The shadows of war have been brooding over Ukraine since 2014, but the prospect of a full-scale war seemed far-fetched. A war right in the middle of Europe (or anywhere else in the world) in the 21st century was and still is something beyond understanding and acceptance.
“I used my research skills to the best of my ability at the beginning of 2022, trying to figure out whether the war was actually going to happen,- says Vlad. Well, I guess, I learned the answer on February 24”. It seemed like everybody in Ukraine knew what was going to eventually happen as soon as the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, recognized the LPR and DPR separatist formations in the East of Ukraine. Yet, nobody wanted to believe in the worst-case scenario.
The shattering sounds of the first air raid sirens laid the final seal of verification upon the fact that the war had really started. The next couple of days were nothing but an emotional rollercoaster.
“As a global citizen and a person who has a 21st-century type of thinking, it was hard for me to imagine a nation trying to destroy its neighbor so blatantly, and without any provocation or pretext. So, it was utter shock and disbelief at first. Yet, as time passed, it became clear to me that living in fear was not an option. It was time to help the war effort in any way possible”.
It was exactly at this time when the war’s next dimension kicked in – the refugees. Lviv became a hub for so many of the relocated people. At first, it was total chaos, with hundreds of thousands of people trying to flee across the Ukrainian border or find a safer place in order to stay in Ukraine. During the first week, Vlad and his wife harbored a family of five coming from Kharkiv. They were confused and did not know what to do next. Then, almost every week, some other new people needed help. Vlad and his wife worked out a system to provide people with what they required regarding food, shelter, and information. Lviv, March 2022. Vlad with Oleksandr, a refugee from Severodonetsk, Luhansk region.
As the waves of refugees subsided, it was time to return to work, which was hard knowing that others were fighting near the capital, in the east, and in the south. Yet, soon it became apparent that in order to withstand this challenge the country needed a strong economy. Despite the air raid sirens going off day and night, Vlad got used to the sound and this nerve-wracking experience, and continued working from a bomb shelter.
“I think that it’s utterly important to feel the sense of belonging in times like this. I was receiving calls from Avenga like twice a day, asking me whether I’m okay and whether me or my family needed some help. The company took proper care of those who were looking to relocate or got conscripted into the ranks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This was probably the first time in my life that I felt a sense of belonging professionally”.
Today, Vlad, just like many other Avenga employees, works for his future, the future of the company, and the future of Ukraine. People are united as never before. “I believe the truth will prevail. Yes, we are paying a terrible price for the victory over tyranny, but it is the moment which will redefine the nation and will make us as united as ever before” – Vlad concludes.
We keep on living, working, loving… and fighting
Planning is an integral part of success. However, every plan is only as good as the people executing it. Our stories prove that cruelty, lies, and brutality cannot take over kindness, empathy, and understanding. Each story represents a unique war effort that, in its own way, makes sure that brightness will prevail over darkness as we keep living, working, loving… and fighting.
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