As I begin to write these words it is three weeks since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Three weeks since our reality and sense of security changed so much.
I’m writing about my individual feelings from the perspective of a person living 300km from the Ukrainian border, in a country whose borders have been crossed by 1.97 million refugees since the beginning of the war. During many online meetings and phone calls, my colleagues and I get many questions about how we feel and how this situation affects us. I will try to describe it now.
I think that three weeks ago we suddenly woke up in a different world, and no matter how much we spell reality, this normality will not return soon. The worst were the first days, the constant checking of news reports and the fear that the Russian aggression would also affect us. Then rationalizing the situation and trying to explain to ourselves that what was happening, is thought to be impossible.
The topic of war came up in conversation with everyone. Although we hardly watch TV at home, it was impossible not to talk about it the weekend after the attack on Ukraine. When my 6-year-old son can’t sleep on Sunday because he’s afraid of the war, I find that it’s time to detox from the constant checking of the news and the constant conversations about it.
Then Monday came, I was off with a colleague to meet with a potential client, talking about the possibility of collaboration. That was the best thing that could have happened to us that day because it filled our heads with work. At the same time begins a beautiful spurt of helping refugees. On the housing estate Facebook groups, there was a lot of information from people who have taken refugees under their roof and need specific things. Most of the fleeing families from Ukraine cross the border with practically nothing. We started to collect items needed and delivered them quickly to those in need.
Many people help to transport people from the border to selected cities, many kindergartens, schools, and companies organize the collection of urgently needed resources—food! There are organized collections for backpacks and school supplies for children who are to join Polish schools, and a lot of financial collections that are organized across Europe.
All of us have contacted friends and acquaintances from Ukraine whom we know personally with the question, “Do you need help?” However, not everyone wants to leave the country. Many women with children decide to stay in Ukraine, even if they know the Polish language and have friends here.
Susanne then arranged a meeting with our team. She was the first person interested in our situation, encouraging us to share ideas about how we can help the people in Ukraine.
The following week, we contacted our partners from Ukraine. A colleague talked directly to the people who visited our offices in Warsaw last December. After a few days of assurances that they did not need anything, they suddenly asked us to support them with the purchase and delivery of 30pcs of walkie-talkies.
Full of enthusiasm, we present the proposal of this symbolic help.
Unfortunately, and to our initial surprise, walkie-talkies are considered dual-purpose devices, which can be treated as military items, Therefore, and understandably, as a company we could not support such activities.
Later I talked to my husband, whose company is also involved in helping Ukraine. He told me about his former work colleague Tatiana, a Ukrainian woman who is organizing medical aid for her hometown. The question that pops into my head is whether maybe, as Nedap, we can offer a helping hand. I get in touch with her and get a long list of medicines, medical devices that are no longer available in Ukraine, and drugs that are hard to get even with prescriptions.
Since medicines are difficult to obtain, I start checking private collections of Polish medics and local foundations and hope that they can help in organizing these items. This initiative I’ve shared within our organization. To my joy, I see a lot of involvement from people from various market groups and different countries. I think we are all touched by the situation of our Ukranian neighbours. I am also surprised at how many charities there are in many countries.
But the question is, how do we function as individuals in this current reality? I think we try to focus on family, daily life, and work. I read and I know that you have to take care of your mental well-being, take care of our country’s economy, and our private economy so that we have the resources to help refugees in the long run. On the other hand, we are constantly confronted with this new reality. Even a simple action like picking up your mom from the train station who came to visit for the weekend…we see the people at the station who were forced to flee. The image of a child sleeping on a large backpack at the train station, while our own children are playing in their colourful rooms. Images that we normally see on TV are now so close to us.
I hesitated sharing these insights, because they seem so insignificant and shallow compared to what people fleeing war have to face, or the feelings of people who still have their loved ones in Ukraine, or people who help out at charities on a daily basis, or those who have taken in refugees. But I know how many people are experiencing the stress of the current situation, and maybe feeling that we are not alone in this will be helpful.
And finally, I would like to add how important it is to me that we block sales to Russia and Belarus. Not everyone has the opportunity to work for a company that is also ethical in its actions. This means a lot to me. I know that from the perspective of a company which earns money selling solutions on many markets, it was not an easy decision, but an extremely important one. It shows that we really put people first. And although I am a person with the soul of a sales person and I am aware of the temptations that will appear, I think that this is an extremely important principle that we follow and by doing this we oppose the terrible actions in Ukraine.