Where were you caught up when this war started and what was your first reaction?
I was at home [in Kyiv] when the war broke out. I woke up to the sounds of blasts that came very close to where I live. There had been a constant talk a war could happen, and we had been given warnings invasion could happen but I could just have never imagined we could have a war. Do you remember this TV letter game show. What I did was guess all the letters but failed to name the word. I was not the only one, many of my close friends had never assumed it could happen. I come from then Soviet Union. My grandfather told my about WWII he survived.
When this war erupted, it gave me this dreadful feeling that we were going back to 1941 where we have our people fighting against Russian fascists.
Soon, after the first shock went away, I came to grips with the situation; I know our country will endure, no mistake about it as we are fighting for our freedom, our homes, our course, our businesses.
My involvement with Jewish organizations in Ukraine -VAAD and Jewish Confederation of Ukraine – made me study the Holocaust history, and now I understand that you cannot destroy a nation, you just cannot do it. We have a free nation that cannot be defeated by slaves. We are fighting for our nation, for our state.
Can we call it genocide?
Definitely, I am certain of it. Eventually, Putin will face a trial in the Hague and Russian Nazis will be punished.
How badly has the war impacted your business?
Once I recovered from the first shock, I understood there couldn’t be a place for panic, everyone must do things they do best. My business is different now as we are adapting it to wartime conditions. The things like shopping malls and construction have been put on hold. My Infomir company produces set-top boxes and other internet-related products. We haven’t suspended operations of our production in Odesa but the situation made us rework our logistics. It was a challenging task but it took us just a week to redirect our exports to the US and Europe. Things made in Ukraine are thought to be cool these days considering the situation we have. It is cool to have the products we make in wartime conditions sold in the US
Is your personnel still working?
Sure, people are working as I feel responsible for these people and try to keep our business going. We are providing for jobs, paying salaries and taxes.
Have you moved you business and personnel to Odesa?
Our Odesa production hasn’t been interrupted. Some people evacuated, others evacuated their families. Some workers are now working remotely in the West, and now we have to work out logistics issues in Romania. At first, we had a hard time gathering people, getting a grip on the situation, making them stop to panic, figuring out where all of them were, and who was still working. We keep doing it. I have another business going that now offers solutions for freight and logistics. I am also helping the Ukrainian army.
Before the war happened, I was involved in art and cultural projects. I will continue to do that. Next week, I am set to register the charity fund ‘Art for Victory’ in Prague, and it will reach out to famous people around the world and raise money to help Ukraine.
Our goal is to save Ukrainian cultural treasures and help Ukrainian contemporary artists. It was part of my job with M17 art project that currently is responsible for our volunteer efforts. ( The businessman has also started another charity called Adamovskiy Foundation)
It has been almost a month since the war started but I am rather optimistic about Ukraine’s future. When it is over, we will rebuild Ukraine, and I hope we will have a Marshall plan, which is a big ‘plus’ for our country and society. The war can be devastating for our national culture and we can’t let it happen.
I get told that I should be saving people not paintings but I believe we must do these two things at the same time. If we lose our culture, we will lose our people. Everybody is doing what they can. I will use my money and resources to save cultural heritage of our country.
You said you were helping our army
My fund has donated one million hryvnas. Every Ukrainian is doing their best to help. We have survived two revolutions and now we have a war raging here. Our generation is having this exceptional experience.
Courage of Ukrainian people and their unity makes me proud and inspired.
You must have friends in Russia. Has the war affected your relations with them?
I have friends in Russia who clearly understand the situation. They have been shocked to see it happen. To be honest, talking to Russian friends is now discomforting for me. It is not about their way of looking at it, or their failure to understand what is going on here. I think there must be 100 per cent collective responsibility for this war.
Russians can’t claim they are not responsible for what Russia is doing to us here. I have a hard time talking even to those who understand it. I don’t understand when they say ‘what can we do?’. It is collective responsibility of Russians. When Nazi Germany was defeated, the whole German nation went down on their knees asking for forgiveness for actions of Hitler. They still feel remorse for the Holocaust. Russians will have to go through it as well.