I Am Still Working from Ukraine. This Is My Story

I Am Still Working from Ukraine. This Is My Story

I am still here, in Ukraine, working through the Upwork platform. And I am not alone. There are still Ukrainians here, working on Upwork. We are more available and motivated than ever before to deliver the highest quality products and services.

Table of contents: I am still working from Ukraine

Here’s what’s happened in my life since Russia attacked Ukraine. Here’s how you can find me and my colleagues and the impact working with us will have.

First. I am still here.

My name is Bohdan and I deliver software design for SaaS, CRM, ERP—mostly for management platforms and mobile applications. I’ve had a profile on Upwork for five years.

I often work with startups and help transform their ideas into a proper UX/UI design to help raise investment funds or properly develop and launch their platforms or apps for user engagement. I am an entrepreneur myself and enjoy combining my experience launching startups and with UX/UI design to support others.

Work had been going well and I was lucky to have developed a unique niche through Upwork, partnering with global companies to help their ideas and vision take shape.

Working

This is me at work using the Upwork platform to connect with clients.

The day everything changed

At 5 a.m. on February 24, 2022 the sound of shelling woke me up. I grabbed my phone and began searching for information. I quickly found the news headline: “Ukraine is attacked by Russia. It’s a war.”

I called my parents who lived less than 20 km (12.4 miles) away from my place and they confirmed they were hearing the same awful war sounds. I didn’t know how to behave in such a situation (as not a lot of us have been in this kind of situation, right?) and I decided to stay at my place to wait and see what would happen, as it was extremely scary to drive anywhere under the constant shelling. All of my colleagues followed the same plan: just wait and see what would happen next.

That day I contacted all of my clients from the US, Canada and Western Europe and explained the situation I was in and we talked about the next steps. I was very worried about project deadlines that would need to be shifted because of the war and shared with each client an updated plan for their project, taking the war into account.

What inspired me and gave me the first wave of strength to overcome this time period was the number of emails and messages I received from dozens of people I work with worldwide through Upwork. Colleagues shared their worries about me and Ukraine as well as offering any help: donations, relocation options, as well as helping to spread the word about what was happening in Ukraine. Since day one when the war began I knew that we were not alone and that the whole world was racing out to support us.

I still had electricity, internet connection, and water, as well as the ability to go to the supermarket. The store opened for a couple of hours per day when there were pauses in-between bombing schedules.

But I mostly had to stay and to sleep in a bomb shelter that had been organized under my building. Here is how it looked:

Bomb Shelter

Bomb Shelter 2

Bomb Shelter 3

Me in a bomb shelter during the first days of war.

I could not properly work at that point, being under constant stress and constantly checking in with everyone to find out if anyone was injured, or worse, and if anyone needed help.

Yard

This was my yard. Every day at that spot once the war started there was a queue of civilian people hoping to buy water.

Kindergarden

This is the kindergarten I used to go to when I was a kid. It was functioning as a bomb shelter for civilians when Russia bombed it.

We relocated to a safer place a week later

On March 4, 2022, after a week under the constant shelling and seeing the amount of civilian deaths, I could not stand it any more and decided to leave my hometown and of course grab my family and take them with me.

I also grabbed one more designer from my team as I had a free spot in the car. (That's how the whole country united. We helped each other as much as possible.)

We thought we were leaving for a short period of time but it turned out that I still have not been able to get back to my hometown more than 3 months later.

We picked a safe city which has not been bombed or otherwise attacked during the war and would not be a strategic choice to occupy first. We thought, worst case, we’d have enough time to move on. The next step was to rent a property to live in and that is where the financial aspect of the war kicks in.

Relocated

This is me and my parents having a walk together for the first time after three weeks of war in a nearby city (Poltava, Ukraine).

My income from Upwork has been our sole lifeline

Because of my prior and current relationship with Upwork I am the only person among my family and some of my friends, outside of the IT industry and Upwork, who hasn’t lost my job. This means I’ve been able to work and support others with the income I earn through Upwork.

All of my current clients waited on me to resettle in a safe place and new clients appeared through Upwork.

The worldwide support has made a difference

Keeping my clients and gaining new ones was the next point in which I understood the extent of the worldwide support that was pouring in to help me and my country. People worldwide were reaching out to hire me and help give me work. It’s hard to find words to describe the depth of my gratitude to everyone.

It was at this moment that I began to fully grasp how meaningful the connections I had through Upwork were for me and my family, not only the financial salvation but also the support and connection that was coming in from the outer world. Here’s how my connections through Upwork have helped us:

  • Upwork itself launched different programs supporting freelancers and agencies from Ukraine
  • Clients from Upwork constantly asked if there was anything they could do for me and for Ukraine
  • I got work done and was paid for it (which is rare these days in Ukraine as most people lost their jobs)
Hospital

The building on the right is a small local hospital in the Kharkiv village region where my mom used to work before the war started.

The income I make through Upwork is now supporting my entire extended family through the war—parents, grandparents, and any other friends and relatives requesting financial assistance. This work allows me to pay for the following things, both for my family and extended family and friends, when needed:

  • Rent
  • Daily food
  • Healthcare

I’m also donating money to volunteers, Ukrainian armed forces, territorial defense groups and anyone else who has the need. I have friends who are buying and delivering specially requested items for the armed forces still defending my hometown, Kharkiv. Any extra money we make goes directly to help defend my country.

My story is not unique

Almost every person working through my agency on Upwork is the only one housing and  feeding their families right now.

And it’s not only about me and my team. Last week I had a conversation with an iOS developer from a different company working on Upwork who is precisely in the same situation. Whenever I talk to any “IT-related” person for which Ukraine is known as a resource (Design, development, online marketing specialists), I realize that all of us are the only ones supporting our entire families.

Family

Me and my grandparents taking a walk together on May 8, 2022, International Mother’s Day.

House

A picture from May, 04 2022 taken in my grandparent's home showing their neighbor’s flat a floor above.

I am more available and motivated than ever to work

I am more available and motivated than I ever have been to deliver for my clients. The work on Upwork itself has become my escape from all the awful things happening. Here’s what the work is giving me:

  • A small piece of normalcy during these stressful days
  • My escape and connection to what my life had been before the war
  • The luxury to enjoy pizza time with my family on international Mother’s day

My values have changed

So many Ukranians, having lost their jobs and homes—and some their loved ones—are in a deep depression. Their lives are “on hold” while there is a war. People will need to rebuild from scratch and they don’t yet know how.

I am a positive person by nature but it’s now the really simple things that matter to me. I was so happy to get a personal working table and a chair at the new flat we’ve rented and to have my family next to me knowing that we’re alive and safe. Everything else seems meaningless.

Bohdan Upwork

Me at the table and chair, with my Upwork profile opened on my laptop.

So, having a table and chair, as well as a laptop (and internet) are enormously valuable. I have access to Upwork which means I have access to a huge opportunity to continue to build my life (although it feels less important to be “successful” in the ways I cared about before the war).

I value my work now more than ever. The work has become my mental shield. I don’t have the luxury to drop into depression because my family and my Upwork agency members are depending on me.

My work results have increased

I returned to full time work on March 4 as soon as I relocated. I have an even stronger desire now to fulfill work commitments for the Upwork clients I had before the war started. Working a full day helps me focus on the things I can influence, through work, rather than the things I can not change, like my disrupted life, war, missiles, death, terrorism.

The work gives me a regular weekly schedule while the whole rest of the country is living in chaos.

I joke with my clients that I have nothing else to do but work now, so that's why the work is delivered faster. My team also provides software development services and our work there was not affected at all. In fact, we are producing more.

I deliver all the same services my team and I did before the war:

  • Web platforms
  • Mobile applications
  • UX/UI designs
  • Figma high-fidelity prototypes
  • Users’ Flows Mockups
  • Software development services (frontend/backend)

No more small talk

The only thing that has changed about my work is there is no more small talk. We used to have online-video conversations with the clients that would kick off with small talk. But today the topic is now usually about the situation in Ukraine and sometimes my clients know recent news faster than I do. I joke with them that I am too busy doing their tasks instead of constantly scrolling through news reports.

Here’s how you can find me and my colleagues

How to find us:

Upwork helped so many people here in Ukraine both before and after the war started. Upwork set up a portal that shares information on how you can support people still working in Ukraine, and also those that have relocated from Ukraine. You can also see where a person is located by looking at their profile.

I am getting daily requests from skilled workers in Ukraine hoping to get started on Upwork. I have organized a telegram chat messenger channel to share my experience on working with a foreign market and help different people get started with Upwork. It launched in March 2022 and now has more than 3,500 subscribers. The content is in Ukrainian.

I also participated in a YouTube interview about Upwork to help people get started on Upwork and work with the foreign markets. The video gained more than 43,000 views within one month.

I personally know tens of professionals who’ve launched their Upwork profiles to help rebuild their lives.

Here’s the impact working with us will have

Here are a few of the many reasons to work with Ukrainians:

  • We are considered a top talent market, especially in the areas of web, mobile and software development, as well as design and creative. Simply put: we’ll deliver extraordinary work
  • You’ll support millions of families and individuals who lost their Ukraine-based jobs and had to relocate
  • You’ll support the Ukrainian economy to function during the war
  • You’ll help us donate to each other and the armed forces
  • You’ll support our morale and encourage us to stay positive and know we are not alone

Your kindness lifts us up

I am grateful to Upwork and the people on the platform who are hiring Ukrainians and all the support you’ve shared with us. I also want to stress that you will get good quality service from us.

I don’t want people to work with Ukrainians only because we are now in a victim position. I want people to work with Ukrainians because they know we’ll deliver a proper professional result and they’ll be satisfied with the work we do.

Please know that I am sharing literally each and every word of support I receive through my work on the Upwork platform with my family and friends.

Your kind words help lift us up.

This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the independent freelancer listed as the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
Article Author
Author
I Am Still Working from Ukraine. This Is My Story
Bohdan H.
Top Rated Plus
Kharkiv, Ukraine
Software design expert
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