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

Relatives of Vadym Trembovetskyi, a former Cornell MBA now living in Germany, huddle in a basement during bombing outside their homes in Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of Vadym Trembovetskyi)

Dima Okhrimchuk
MBA ‘17 UC Berkeley Haas School of Business
CEO & Co-founder at Organization.GG

Russia has been trying to invade Ukraine for the last 8 years, since it annexed Crimea and de-facto occupied Eastern parts of Ukraine in 2014. Since there has never been a strong response from the Western democracies, Russia, led by a psychopathic Putin, is striking its final accord in taking over the whole country in a shameless and cunning war against its so-called brother nation. This is a historical event not only for Ukraine, but for the whole world, since it gives a precedent for other dictator countries to use the same playbook. This will be a new world order and I doubt it will be for the best.

Dima Okhrimchuk

Ukrainian people are fueled by the anger and hate towards Putin, who started a war against a pro-European country with democratic values. We have very brave, dedicated and heroic soldiers fighting and giving their lives for freedom and independence of Ukraine. However, even the “powerful” NATO forces are scared to have a direct confrontation with Russia. Whereas our 13 men said *uck off to a Russian military ship knowing they will be killed immediately (see video below). That said, without an immediate military, financial assistance from the West and NATO troops on the ground, Ukraine may struggle to win this war. I am scared to even think what will happen in this case. And I am on optimist by nature.

These two days have been the toughest days in my life. Watching live reports of my country being torn apart by the Russians is just devastating. This is something I will never forget for the rest of my life. On one hand, I feel guilty for not being there with my family and friends, and on the other hand I understand that I can also contribute by raising funding for the Ukrainian army and raising awareness among my network, etc. I can only hope that this won’t last long and we find a diplomatic solution. There can’t be winners in the war.


All my family and most of my friends are in Ukraine. My dad, who is almost 60, volunteered to join territorial defense forces. I pray for them and peace in Ukraine and hope this ends soon.
Luckily, I have been able to communicate (with friends and family) through messengers. Every 4-6 hours I check in on my parents and get in touch with my friends. I feel relieved whenever they respond. Doesn’t matter what.

NATO alliance, pro-Western democracies WAKE UP!! The Western democracies are already afraid of directly confronting Russia. Putin is going to eat you alive if you don’t act now. It is a matter of time. It took him only 8 years to start invading a “brother” country – Ukraine. Help Ukrainians help YOU maintain the existing, but so fragile, peace in the world.

What can you do to support Ukraine right now? 1. Support Ukrainian soldiers financially. https://www.supportukraine.co/ 2. Demand your politicians to put maximum pressure on Putin’s regime. We need immediate actions, military and financial support. We need a political and a diplomatic solution–we want peace and safety for our families too. Don’t give up on us. We are fighting for you!

Oleksiy Rachok

This is a brutal invasion, I can’t find other words for it. Mr. Putin is trying to de-facto restore the Soviet Union, and Ukraine is key for his plans. What he forgets, however, is that Ukrainian hearts are lost for Russia – the full new generation grew up in the independent and democratic country. Even if a bit messy sometimes.

What needs to happen is that the Ukrainian army and self-defense forces have to disrupt Putin’s “Blitzkrieg” strategy. Then time will be on our side – because it is easier to invade Ukraine than to hold it: the vast majority of Ukrainians do NOT support Russia, this is Russia’s wishful thinking.

My sister studies in the U.S. but she came back to Ukraine to do some field work for her PhD a few months ago. And she is still there. I am in touch with her, and she plans to do some volunteering work in Ukraine to support our country.

I am Ukrainian, and Ukraine is very important to me. But this aggression is more than just aggression against Ukraine, this is an attack on the global order and rule of international law. I understand why NATO is reluctant to send troops to Ukraine – Russia’s ruler is desperate enough to start the nuclear war. But I see no excuses in not punishing the regime otherwise and crippling it economically. And so far the world’s answer has been quite timid: more words than actions. The world has to stop doing any business with Russia, strategically. And, in the short term, keep supporting Ukraine which is fighting its uphill battle alone.

Vlad Miretsky
MBA ‘16, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management

Both my parents and my in-laws are in Ukraine. They are currently safe but we’re extremely worried about them since my family in Kyiv looks to soon be in danger with the recent advances of the occupant forces. My wife’s and my parents are 60+ but none of them are planning to leave–it’s their country, not Putin’s. Besides, with the country full of Russian occupants, it’s way more dangerous now to move around the country than to stay put.

Vlad MiretskyObviously, Putin’s end goal is to topple the government in Kyiv and establish a puppet regime. However, that would result in a prolonged internal conflict and guerilla warfare. Ukrainians aren’t some “neo-nazis”, they just want to live in their own country and elect their own government. We don’t want to go back to the USSR. Russians aren’t welcome and a lot of Ukrainians (even among civilians) are armed and willing to fight till the bitter end. So any quick and real end to the conflict is possible only in the diplomatic realm.

It’s really hard to tell the exact toll now, but clearly the Ukrainian economy will soon be on the brink of collapsing. Ukraine is also a major wheat producer and with that supply we’re going to see more famine threats around the world. Regionally, Ukraine is an important partner in machine-building, chemicals etc. and the war is already causing supply chain disruptions at e.g. VW factories.

Ukraine’s fight against Russian occupants is not just some conflict between ex-Soviet republics. It’s the fight of the progressive and democratic part of the world against totalitarianism and fascism. We’ve already seen this with Hitler occupying Austria and Czechoslovakia on similar pretexts. Putin will not stop in Ukraine. Once he gets closer to NATO borders, you can expect sabotages and possible military action in Eastern Europe.

Why is the world turning a blind eye?! Any effort at appeasement or mild response is an invitation for Putin to proceed. We’ve seen this time and time again. He is a thug but he’s not reckless – he will back down when faced with force and strong deterrence. So this is not the time to think about the stock market or price at the pump. The future of our world is at stake. And I’m sure no one wants to go back in time to where it’s ok for a stronger country to just capture their smaller neighbor by force. Harsh sanctions should be enacted now–Putin’s fascist regime should be cut off from SWIFT and face an oil/gas embargo.

Long live Ukraine and its heroes!

Vadym Trembovetskyi
MBA ‘18, Cornell’s Johnson School of Management

What happening is that Putin could not accept the fact that a) USSR has collapsed and b) Ukraine could be a “bad example” for Russians of a country that, despite the previous president Yanukovich was “overthrown”, could do the reforms and prosper. If Putin would have not launched the current scenario, he could be overthrown in his own country, which is the most important thing to him.

I am not a military strategist, but I think that the next couple of weeks will be the most important. If Ukrainians show we can resist, it will spoil Putin’s whole plan. The longer Putin fights, the harder it becomes for him to keep justifying the war tor his population. That is why supporting Ukraine NOW is critical. People at his country are rising up (e.g.Russian standing up and about 2,000 people supporting Ukraine were arrested in Russia) and we should all use this opportunity.

No words can describe our feelings. My family–myself, my wife, and my son–have been living in Frankfurt (Germany) for 2-plus years. It’s very hard to stay here in Germany and attend meetings in support of Ukraine (that do not help at this point). I consider coming back to Ukraine and joining the Ukrainian army.

I could not reach all of my family in Ukraine as wifi becomes not available; mobile internet is not working properly. People are hiding in cellars to avoid bombings. Occasionally, they get out outside for a quick chat.

I’d appreciate if American and fellow business students could do the following:

  • Bring to the attention of the US policymakers the issue of the Ukrainian war.
  • Arranging/attending the peaceful demonstrations in support of Ukraine.
  • Demanding cutting off Russia from SWIFT. Why? It is one of the most severe actions against Russia. We do not have much time. Because it will make the Russian population more willing to go out on the Russian streets and demand stopping the war.

I personally think that the West (US + EU) did not do enough to stop the war. I understand that Russia is an important global player on the energy market, but what the West is doing now is postponing the war with Russia in exchange for Ukrainian soldiers and good energy prices. For example, today Russian government folks have issued their concern that Finland started doubting its non-NATO status. What’s next for Russia? Taking Alaska back?

In order to stop Russian invasion the West needs to do the following:

  • Protect the Ukrainian air space. It means using the NATO weapon to destroy the Russian
    military planes.
  • Disconnect russia from SWIFT and consider even more harsh sanctions (as Ukraine
    does not have much resources to resist).
  • Send NATO troops to Ukraine. If the West does not do that, Putin will move to other EU

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