Thu, 14 Apr 2022 16:50:00 GMT
Sirens. Run to the shelter. Breathe out. Try to sleep. Sirens again. Silence. Ok, is it safe to go get groceries? Gmail notification: ‘Hey, pls fix slide #…’. Sirens again. Sounds of shelling. ‘Hey, sorry for my late reply..’
According to the IOM, over 7.1 million people have now been internally displaced in Ukraine. Most of them lost their jobs or are temporarily unable to continue carrying out their duties.
Those working for the Western markets from Ukraine or otherwise keeping some income flowing in are becoming the backbone of the economy.
But even if you can work, how do you focus on developing a huge creative campaign or replying to what seems like a completely irrelevant email when guns are firing above your head?
Solomiia moved back to Kyiv in November 2021 after living in Toronto for 5 years. She continues to work remotely at a Toronto-based agency LP/AD, juggling work and survival. Solomiia works with Sasha, whose family is still in Kyiv. This is what their experience has been so far.
It happened at around 5:17 in the morning. I couldn’t sleep the night before and finally went to bed at around 4am, when - just some hours later - my city was awakened by the loud explosions. The full-scale war has started.
I didn’t have an ‘emergency suitcase’ ready, nor an exact plan. For whatever reason, the only thing I could think of was an email campaign that ought to go out that day, so I started typing out all my deliverables and sending them to Sasha, our managing director. After that, we packed and went down to the shelter, not knowing when we’d be able to return home.
In the heart of the Ukrainian capital – Kyiv, I was going to bed under curfew, turning my sound off so not to wake up anyone around me, listening closely to the sounds of air raids and occasional explosions, reading the news at dawn, cooking for 30 people. At that time I, once again, realised how united and strong my country is. I also realised that all this time my agency stood behind me like a shield.
When your entire world crumbles in front of you, you are desperately looking for a foundation, a ground to stand on. Your knees are weak, your thoughts are messy and disorganised, and you want to do all at once, but, somehow, can’t manage to do anything at all. The best you can hope for in times like this is that someone will be there to pick you up, help you get yourself back on track and carry on. That’s what a real team looks like to me and that’s what inspired me to get back to work – the people who’ve kept the ground from shaking.
I was given the freedom to join the legions of those who fight on the informational front, who create and spread the truth. Along with others, we started supporting many important projects – war diaries of people who experienced it first-hand, volunteering organisations that deliver aid to those in need and countless translations to media. We saw a spike in activity among our local creative agencies, architecture studios, designers, musicians, and filmmakers – I still don’t know how many of them have the strength to do what they do. What I know for sure now is that you can never be completely prepared for the horror that war brings, but if you have someone in your corner, together, you can drive a powerful force of change.
On the other side of the world in Canada, it was 10pm, February 23rd. And everything inside me dropped as I started getting texts about the first bombs in all my chats. It was 5 a.m. in Kyiv. A city that I left seven years ago. A city where my whole family lives to this day. Do we wake everyone up? Do we wait? What happens next? I realised my family’s life will never be the same as soon as they open their eyes.
From that moment, the feeling of helplessness mixed with the feeling of full responsibility during the night time in Ukraine was all-consuming. Whenever I tried focusing on work, all I could think about was what was going on back home.
No one is taught how to be productive during a war. Everything seems insignificant compared to the soul-crushing moments you are going through.
The two things that helped me keep sane during the last months were the people around me and the pro-bono project aimed at helping Ukraine that our agency got involved in.
Looking at Ukrainians, the resilient people, the creative minds that continue to find new ways of applying their talents during this time is so inspiring. Just look at these examples:
- My Mom and Grandma's daily batches of pancakes for the guys on the frontlines.
- Solomiia, who was writing 'Sash, if anything this newsletter is supposed to go out tomorrow morning…' instead of hiding from shelling in the middle of the night.
- PapaPover - a platform aimed to find ways of conveying the truth to your oblivious relatives in Russia.
- Creative Forces of Ukraine - a community of digital specialists who united on Telegram and serve on the informational front to fight Russian propaganda.
- Spend With Ukraine - a curated list of the coolest Ukrainian brands you can buy from.
- Brave.ua - a resource with downloadable materials you can use to show support for Ukraine.
And the list goes on. The list of people, teams and complete strangers who have united to create incredible things.
I also joined Second Front, a team of 50+ volunteers here in Toronto who send defence supplies back home to help protect Ukrainians as heroes of the free world and democracy. Our agency volunteered to develop an identity and website for the org, meaning - in a way - I was lucky to focus my efforts at work on something that benefits my country.
While working on the other projects, I find strength and inspiration in knowing the company I work at is on the right side of history. And I encourage everyone, especially those in the creative industry, to consider volunteering. What are your talents? Which resources do you have that you can share? Who do you know who can help you help people?
However hard it’s been, there’s one thing I know for sure - I’ve never felt more proud of the people around me. Together, we are winning already.