“The Russian offensive appears to be petering out, and a major Ukrainian counteroffensive is still to come. Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of the U.S. Army Europe, predicts that the Russian army will collapse by the end of the summer and that Ukraine will reclaim all of the territory it has lost since the invasion began on Feb. 24. While that scenario may be over-optimistic, it is more likely than any kind of Russian victory.”
It was three months ago today that we left Kyiv, shocked and scared. We are now in a holiday resort in South Africa, but we are not on holiday. We are still in a state of shock but we are not scared any more. We are unsure though about the future and for now it feels like we are treading water. And that can be exhausting.
I was born in South Africa and I love it here. But my soul was restless and in Kyiv I had found a magical world that was my happy place. I am very grateful that as I write this we are comfortable and safe. Everyday I count my blessings. But all we want is to return to Kyiv.
Most people I know had very little knowledge of Kyiv, if anything at all, until I told them about it. And those who came with me there, who walked the streets and took in the vibe, always wanted to return. Kyiv is a creative center, a place full of energy and spirit, with a booming IT industry, and incredible eating, culture, beauty, adventure … I could go on and on. And just a short time ago I had never heard of a mugging or anything related to crime in Kyiv, and then, just like that, life changed. War came to town.
Magical Kyiv are two words you often hear when people talk about this ancient city. A place where life is embraced to the fullest and where people laugh with their souls. The sense of humour one experiences in Ukraine is so opposite to the stupid stereotype, which will soon change. Ukraine is finally on the map, and it will stay on the map. Putin will not change the face of Europe. If that were to happen it means that evil has won, and I just cannot believe that is possible.
An interesting thing to observe is the currency in Ukraine which has hardly dropped in value since the start of the war. Ukrainians are not panicking and their confidence is reflected in the value of their currency. Also, cinemas opened again in Ukraine the weekend before last. Some rays of light.
Please God this insane war ends soon.
Marta and I were standing on the patio admiring the magnificent view on Sunday morning. And the weather was so lovely and you could just stand there and stare. But neither of us looked happy. Yes, we are very grateful to be staying in this peaceful and beautiful place, but we long to get back to Kyiv and the news from this week gone by continues to be very upsetting.
The thing about being on holiday is that you plan a holiday. You pack to go on holiday. The idea is to switch off and relax. But we are the opposite of switched off. This is no holiday. There is constant news from Ukraine and a lot of chats/text with friends and family back in Kyiv, and outside of the country. The ones in Ukraine tell us about the air raid sirens and the military presence in every direction, but they also tell us about the beauty and the vibe. People in Kyiv love their city and you can hear it in their voices every time they speak. Magical Kyiv. These are two words I hear often. And the folk on the outside all have the same question: when are we going back? A question we keep asking just about every day since we left.
The Bunster looks very happy down here in Fancourt. He runs around all the time without a worry in the world, and the other day he made friends with a cat. It was love at first site, for both the Bun and the cat. If it wasn’t for the Bunster we would head back to Kyiv this week.
This news headline from about a week ago really stumped me. After reading and staring at it, for quite some time, I just scratched my head and wondered. Does anyone reading this blog understand one word of this Bloomberg headline? My interpretation: this is all just sophisticated gambling and game playing. If anyone tells you they are working hard in crypto, whatever that even means, then they are lying to you and to themself.
My old pal Andrew explained to me, “… these were supposed to be the crypto equivalent of US Treasury bonds, a safe store of value pegged to the US$. Except when $1 becomes worth $0.99, people lose trust in the system and panic, and it may as well be worth zero. Which is what happened.” I kinda understand this, but I still don’t get it.
I believe that crypto currency is here to stay and I also believe it is going to be in all our futures. It should be a good thing. But what is not inspiring is the youth that all too often go on about this stuff like it is the meaning of life. The secret to success is to be keep your promises and to work hard. Trust underpins everything. And this crypto world is currently sounding pretty dodgy.
“The crypto world appears to have become the domain of constant speculation and presents no underlying value. We need engineers to go back to building useful things that actually help the world.”
As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that pleasing everyone is impossible, but annoying everyone is a piece of cake.
I’m responsible for what I say, not what you understand.
Common sense is like deodorant. The people who need it the most never use it.
My tolerance for idiots is extremely low these days. I used to have some immunity built up, but obviously there’s a new strain out there.
It’s not my age that bothers me; it’s the side effects.
I’m not saying I’m old and worn out, but I make sure I’m nowhere near the curb on trash day.
As I watch this generation try and rewrite our history, I’m sure of one thing: It will be misspelled and have no punctuation.
Me, sobbing: “I can’t see you anymore . . . . I’m not going to let you hurt me again.”
My trainer: “It was one sit-up.”
As I’ve gotten older, people think I’ve become lazy. The truth is I’m just being more energy efficient.
I haven’t gotten anything done today. I’ve been in the Produce Department trying to open this stupid plastic bag.
If you find yourself feeling useless, remember it took 20 years, trillions of dollars, and four presidents to replace the Taliban with the Taliban.
Turns out that being a “senior” is mostly just googling how to do stuff.
I want to be 18 again and ruin my life differently. I have new ideas.
I’m on two diets. I wasn’t getting enough food on one.
I put my scale in the bathroom corner and that’s where the little liar will stay until it apologizes.
My mind is like an internet browser. At least 19 open tabs, 3 of them are frozen, and I have no clue where the music is coming from.
Hard to believe I once had a phone attached to a wall, and when it rang, I picked it up without knowing who was calling.
Apparently RSVPing to a wedding invitation “Maybe next time” isn’t the correct response.
She says I keep pushing her buttons. If that were true, I would have found mute by now.
So you’ve been eating hot dogs and McChickens all your life, but you won’t take the vaccine because you don’t know what’s in it. Are you kidding me?
There is no such thing as a grouchy old person. The truth is that once you get old, you stop being polite and start being honest.
There have been some silver linings to this nightmare war. The most important one for me is the re-connection with family. I have had an unusual journey in my adult life with my brother Alon, for example, and this leaving Kyiv abruptly and coming to SA has done a lot of good in terms of my relationship with my brother. The love and support from him and his family has been so beautiful and we are very blessed. I may not have understood my brother for a long time, and there is lots I still don’t get, and may never understand, but I have been reminded of his many good qualities and will be forever grateful that in this time of trouble that old cliche rings true. Family is the most important thing.
I have had many kind friends also reach out to us and there have been many offers of support. But nothing compares to the love of family. I am not sure why it has to take trauma to open one’s eyes, and heart, but this is often the case in life. When this war is over this will be a positive, lasting aspect of this mad year.
The war has caused all kinds of problems and challenges for everyone in Ukraine. Work projects cancelled or postponed, unplanned costs, money going to help others in need, and so on. Luckily my family and I are still ok, but we have had a few folk reach out to us and offer us financial help. I am very grateful to these kind friends. The thing my brother and his family gave us, which is way beyond money, is laughter, warmth, support, their loving home, care, time, patience, and much more. When we arrived in JHB we were in such a state of shock that to go to Alon’s home and everyone there just look after us was a gift from God. It is hard to describe what we are going through, and I hope no one ever has to deal with something like this, but the trauma is non-stop and this war is still going on and not letting up. All we want to to is return to Kyiv soon and help rebuild. There is going to be a lot of pain and a lot to do.
Alon, if you ever read this, thank you for everything. And thank you for this gift. I have made many mistakes in life, and I am trying harder and harder to be a better person. I love you with all my heart.
Since the war started, over 2 months ago, it has been a struggle to sleep at night. And this is coming from an insomniac who is hyperactive. So take it with a pinch of salt. But I am sure you understand what I am trying to say. The nights are not easy. Too much time online reading news, and just staring at stories and images on the Net, trying to comprehend how this can be happening. Aren’t we meant to living in civilized times where things like invading other countries doesn’t happen any more? Who sends in tanks to terrorize innocent people and destroy their homes? Who does this, in this day and age? Russians do this. And their leader is an evil, small, coward of a man.
I love writing, and have been involved in many story telling projects in the indie film world over the past two decades. And some book adventures, newspaper columns, blogs, public speaking, and more. I started writing a lot at the start of the war, and I keep making notes all the times of everything that we are experiencing. I don’t consider myself a good writer but I am confident and I love new ideas. I enjoy writing.
I have many friends in Ukraine and we all text/chat often. Sometimes I am inspired, frequently amazed, and constantly sad. The more I write the less time I have and I am starting to think I need to spend less hours in front of my laptop, and put more emphasis into living life. Not that life is so much fun right now, but there is a ton to be thankful for and a lot to embrace. The Bunster and Marta need more of my time. And I need to take way better care of my physical health.
I have a long list of ideas to explore and write about. But none of this is urgent. I thought it was, for some reason, but it is not that important to me now. I will write up some of the ideas as the weeks go by, but I better start getting my shit together.
Unlike Ukraine’s business oligarchs — whose investments tend to be concentrated in heavy industry, which is regularly bombed by Russia — many younger Ukrainian entrepreneurs run digital businesses. They can continue to trade profitably in a global market and contribute to the national economy, whether they are still based in Ukraine or abroad.
Take Victoria Repa, the 29-year-old co-founder of BetterMe, a digital health coaching company that offers services to 500,000 mostly female customers concentrated in the US. Repa’s life was turned upside down in 2014 when Russia first put military pressure on Ukraine and her home region of Donbas in the east was seized by Moscow-backed militias. “They divided us into two camps,” she recalls. “There were those with expectations, craving an education, and those prepared to sell their souls and join Putin’s corrupt system.”
Repa chose to leave. Along with others from Donetsk, she moved to Kyiv, where she studied business and finance at Kyiv School of Economics before securing a role as banking analyst at consumer products multinational Procter & Gamble.
Having struggled with her weight as a teenager, Repa dreamt of starting a business to help organise diets and exercise routines. Her “lightbulb moment” came when visiting the Apple Entrepreneur Camp for female founders in Silicon Valley. “I saw their HQ and realised I want to build a big company just like this in Ukraine,” she says. Now, annual revenues are $80mn.
Other start-up founders have also ended up in Poland. Roman Prokofiev, 36, co-founder of Jooble, an app that amalgamates online job vacancies internationally, was visiting friends in Romania when the invasion began. He decided to take his family out of Ukraine and stay with them in Warsaw, while sending money back to his home country. His still profitable business, boosted by a buoyant European job market, recently donated nearly $1mn to fund humanitarian aid and the Ukrainian army.
Prokofiev’s 500 tech-savvy staff have also become active participants in the information war. Jooble employees, 400 of them still in Ukraine, send targeted messages to 300mn Russian email addresses, including those of soldiers and their parents. “When we tell Russians they are about to experience greater shortages of medicine and food and lose access to payment systems, that’s a reality they take more seriously than their army killing Ukrainians,” says Prokofiev between sips of herbal tea in the hipster-style Etno café in Warsaw’s commercial district.