War: From Ukrainian MBAs, Harrowing Stories & Vows Of Support For A Homeland Under Attack

An unexploded Russian rocket sticks out of the street in the city where Ukrainian Julia Nechaieva used to go school. Photo courtesy of Nechaieva who now lives in San Francisco.

Viktor, a 2019 graduate of Cornell Johnson who asked that his last name not be used

I’m currently in Ukraine and of course I have family and friends here. Those who had a chance to send kids and women to western Ukraine did so during the week before the invasion and first days after. But most people are locked in cities and are not safe. Russians don’t have any military ethics, use aircraft and missiles to shoot cities and civilians. On the other hand, our militaries are doing a great job and that’s what actually makes people feel safer. Recent military wins inspire and I think give civil volunteers psychological advantage. Ukrainian militaries and civil defense will surprise you over the next couple of weeks.

Russia won’t be able to install a new regime here, this invasion will not succeed. I think Ukraine will receive more military and financial support over the next years which eventually will make no sense for Russia to attack.

Eastern EU will be stressed. 40% of gas supply comes from Russia and that is not easy to change. Don’t see what else the EU really needs from them. But the partner (Russia) that threatens and blackmails can’t support long term growth and prosperity and I think everyone realized it now. Economy is a complex process which is hard to change, and that is the main reason why it was so hard to convince the EU to impose hard and effective sanctions. But once the economic processes are changed as a result of this conflict, they won’t be willing to change again that easily. Ukrainians will remember!

Volodymyr Tylnyi
MBA ‘20, Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management
Investment Banking Associate at Deutsche Bank, NYC

My parents, brother, and friends are in the Western part of Ukraine in a small town. It’s been relatively quiet so far, but an overhead siren was heard a couple of times. Even though there are no ongoing fights in or near that town, air bombing and missiles have already happened in similar towns, so no guarantee of safety. My friends are in different parts of Ukraine, including Kyiv. Those who are in big cities are scared and threatened. People, including my parents, go to bed fully dressed in case there is an urgency to hide in a bomb shelter. And all of them hope they can survive another day.

Volodymyr Tylnyi

Volodymyr Tylnyi

My parents don’t plan to leave. My brother can’t leave (men between 18-60 years old are prohibited from leaving the country). From what I see, it’s mainly women and children who are leaving, but the vast majority of Ukrainians are planning on staying.

Hope (for a quick end) is the only thing I have. I wish this all could end immediately, but I’m afraid, that until Putin gets control over Kyiv (and that’s his goal according to the US intelligence) he won’t stop. Ukrainian government is openly asking for negotiations, but there has been little to no effort from Russia to restart diplomacy. However, I can hardly see a new regime lasting long. Ukrainians will never accept a puppet government, especially after this invasion.

I think it’s worthwhile talking about business in terms of export and import. I think big business is about to face a hard choice: being cynical, and continue doing business with Russia or oppose war and stop/lose business with Russia. I think responsible export business will alter to the second option. On the other hand, Russia is a big exporter–from energy to wheat and other commodities. So, governments and other importers should decide the same question: Are they open to buy from Russia and de-facto justify their invasion and promote war in Europe? Either way, business will take a hit. Sanctions will likely hurt the Russian economy in the long-term, and most likely will affect regular people. Kremlin and Putin will see little to no harm

I hope all the Western World will take more decisive actions to stop Russia and Putin.

Julia Basko
MBA ‘13, University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business

In terms of the war, people in Ukraine will fight to defend their land, the future of their children, their families, and their beliefs and values. Although the Russian army is more equipped, our soldiers and civilians who have chosen to defend their homes are very motivated. I am extremely proud of our Ukrainian army and Ukrainian people. What tough, courageous people! I am sure Mr. Putin did not expect such resistance, but here you go! We count every life lost, all the heroes who sacrificed their lives for Ukraine, and we will never forget.

Julia Basko

I am very disappointed that we are fighting on our own with such a strong army while the whole world is watching from a distance. I am constantly in touch with my friends and relatives in Ukraine. Their reaction is they hate Putin, love Ukraine, afraid for their lives and their future. Many stay at home, some relocated to safer places within Ukraine. There are many of my ex-colleagues who joined national forces to defend their homes, they were trained and are ready to provide the invaders with a cold reception. What is common is that people live in a different reality right now.

All other problems are not important any longer. The reality of bomb shelters replaced the reality of coffee shops, offices, and festivals. It is very stressful and the consequences will be long-lasting. On the other hand, we have never been as united as Mr Putin made us be.

American students and international students might question why the US helps Ukraine and why Ukraine matters. There are a couple of points here to make. First, the US promised to protect Ukraine. The U.S. along with Russia and Great Britain convinced Ukraine to give up the nuclear weapon in 1994, they signed the Budapest Memorandum giving security assurance and promising “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force” against the country. Then in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and invaded Eastern Territories. Russia didn’t keep the promise, but we expected that the US and the UK would.

Second, Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe after Russia. If you look at the map, Ukraine is the bridge from Russia to Europe. We have borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova. If Russia has control over Ukraine, all these countries will be threatened by Russian aggression.

I would like to add that it is very valuable to get words of support from our fellows, even just a small note: “Hey, my thoughts are with your country, I hope for the best for Ukraine.” It makes a difference! It is painful to see that your beautiful country is torn by an evil enemy and we would like to see that this was at least noticed. Also, there is a legit way to donate to the Ukrainian army. Any amount will be much appreciated. Donation information is here.

Vlad Ilchenko
MBA ‘19, Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business
Senior Product Manager, Walmart eCommerce

Part of my family is leaving the country through Poland while my grandma, grandpa, father-in-law and mother-in-law are staying. They are safe right now outside of Kyiv. Also a lot of my friends are now in Kyiv– the city where I was born and raised and spent 27 years of my life.

I hope the Ukrainian army will stop the Russian offense and retake the initiative, therefore channeling the war into the trenches phase which will be devastating for the Russian government and army. Given Putin’s rhetoric and propaganda, he wants to create a loyal occupational regime in Ukraine by forcefully installing it in Kyiv, which is very ambitious given the national resistance where even people with disabilities are preparing Molotov cocktails to fight in city streets.

The European and global economy will suffer in the short term because of the humanitarian crisis and uncertainty. Energy prices will go up but eventually level out once new supply chains are established and alternative fuel sources to russia are established. The Russian economy will be destroyed in the next month so Russians must go on Red Square and protest to save their children from disaster.

Next Pages: More reactions from Ukrainian MBAs

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.