As dawn broke across Ukraine on February 24th this year, the Russian Federation launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine. In my day job, I’ve been working with software development teams in Ukraine for nearly 15 years, mainly in Kharkiv, barely 30 miles (less than 50 km) from the Russian border. In the first hours of the invasion, I messaged an old group-chat from my previous job saying, “Stay safe, my friends.” My former colleagues began waking up to air raid sirens, rocket attacks, and fighter jets roaring over their heads, and I watched their online status turn from yellow to green as they began sending brief replies saying they were safe so far.
Brickmania “Ghost of Kyiv” custom Mig-29 fighter jet kit
Through colleagues like these in Kharkiv, Odesa, and the capital Kyiv, as well as ex-pats here in the US, I’ve grown to love the Ukrainian people and their independent spirit. Ukrainians have been fighting for freedom and democracy ever since declaring independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. That fight became much more visceral in 2014, when a democratic “Revolution of Dignity” overthrew a corrupt, oligarchic and pro-Russian government. Russia’s Vladimir Putin immediately responded by annexing Ukraine’s Crimea region and began a proxy war to take over the industrial Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. This led not just to atrocities like the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 that year, but an ongoing Russia-backed insurgency against the democratic government in Kiev — for many in Ukraine, the Russian invasion began in 2014, not on February 24, 2022. But since February, through the Russian army’s mass killings of civilians in Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, and elsewhere; ethnic cleansing of over 2 million Ukrainians to Russia; and ongoing indiscriminate rocket attacks and air raids against civilian targets like schools and shopping centers throughout Ukraine today, the full-scale invasion this year has proven that Russia intends to commit terrorism and ultimately genocide against the nation of Ukraine and its people. In the 5 months since the Russian invasion, most of my old team relocated to western Ukraine, though nobody in the country is safe from Russian rocket attacks and bombing. Some staff from my old company chose to stay behind in Kharkiv, and at least one has even laid down his life defending his city and his nation.