To get more insights on the terrible crisis in Ukraine, Iryna Pakhomova, a Ukrainian entrepreneur (CEO and co-founder of Nurtio Technologies) living in the Netherlands, shares her vision on the war and explains how we could help with our Female Ventures community.
Dear Iryna, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview with us. Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and how you initially got to the Netherlands?
I was born and raised in Kyiv, but my history with the Netherlands started long ago.
The first company I founded back in 2007 was a plantscaping business with its own import of the plants and plant products from the Netherlands to Ukraine. So after nearly ten years of constant business trips between Kyiv and Aalsmeer, I realized I love the Netherlands so much that I am ready to make it my second home.
How would you describe the Ukrainian culture and people?
I might be a little bit biased because of my origin. Still, from my personal impression, Ukrainian people are a very hard-working and resilient bunch with incredible self-organization skills. I think the whole world is now seeing that with their own eyes.
The last 30 years in my home country’s history have been very turbulent – every seven to ten years, we would have another crisis, be it an economic or political one, or both.
Can you imagine losing everything you’ve been working on for a decade and getting back to square one every time this happens? This does teach people how to remain flexible and get in charge of their own fate without relying on the government or even their employers.
Ukrainian culture is also a very warm culture. We always help each other out – both in the good times and bad times. We even have a saying: “To take off your last shirt and to give it to a friend.” Yes, that’s Ukraine in a nutshell.
How are your family and friends in Ukraine coping with this horrible war?
For the last two weeks, every morning of our people starts with a roll call. “Hey, how are you?”. And you ask that every morning from everyone you care about. In the modern Ukrainian language, this means “I love you.”
It’s not a secret that several millions of people have managed to flee Ukraine and scattered worldwide. I was fortunate to have managed to drag my elderly parents out of Kyiv on fire. They are now staying with me in the Netherlands.
One might think that those who left the country are feeling much better than the ones that stayed. Even though it’s certainly safer to be outside of Ukraine at the moment, I would still strongly disagree about “better”.
All the people that fled the country have experienced a fair share of horror, and many are severely PTSDed. Let alone the fact that those who fled have often left their family, friends, or even pets behind.
It’s impossible to describe the depth of guilt I sometimes see amongst my compatriots that fled Ukraine. It’s certainly not how you imagine “better.” But checking on everyone you care about every morning, does help you cope with the sense of guilt.
Are they willing and capable of going to other countries, and where would they go?
Usually, the first destination is the country bordering with Ukraine: Poland, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia. But even getting to the border and crossing it can be a track depending on where you start.
In peaceful times, the distance between Kyiv and the nearest Polish crossing is about 500 km. In wartime, it took my family two days to get to this border and two more days in a queue to cross it.
But then, after people are crossing, the new question pops up: “What’s next?”.
Poland and other countries have demonstrated yet unseen levels of hospitality and humanity. Essentially in a couple of days, they have reworked their whole immigration policy, but still, nowadays it’s getting increasingly difficult to find a place to stay in Poland – it’s simply packed.
So naturally, people are seeking some other options – where they could not only crash temporarily but perhaps also start their new lives.
People fleeing Ukraine are usually realistic: they do understand that sooner or later, the charity programs will wrap up, and they will have to stay on their own. So already, they are trying to choose the destination where they would stand a good chance of obtaining legal status and finding employment.
Unfortunately, at the moment, the Netherlands is lagging far behind the other European states in this regard. The municipalities are now finally registering the refugees and issuing the BSNs for them. But unfortunately, this still doesn’t give people any right to work or look into the future with at least some degree of certainty.
If a Ukrainian refugee would come to the Netherlands, what are the best ways that we could help, as individuals and with our Female Ventures foundation?
There is a lot that’s already being done. In fact, so much that even we, the volunteers, are already drowning in all the new initiatives and regulations popping up every day.
Luckily, bringing people physically to the Netherlands, providing them with shelter, food and the first essentials is already very well taken care of. But where I personally see the gap is in giving people some clarity on “what’s next .”I think this is the part where we, as the Female Ventures foundation, could potentially help.
The foundation comprises a lot of talented women representing various industries and verticals. It would be great to pull our resources together and perhaps prepare a comprehensive guide for the people arriving. The guide would have several specialized articles: how to find a job, how to even behave at a job, how to start a consultancy or even an own company, which taxes and in which amounts we are paying here, etc.
The most interesting thing is that we all already have this knowledge as we use it every day. So no need to reinvent the wheel – we just need to organize ourselves, split the workload and put all these bits and pieces of information on paper. This will be a huge help to those who are arriving or have already arrived.
Is there anything else that you would like to say here?
I want to say a huge thank you to all the people with big hearts – from the Netherlands and not only. For Ukraine, it means the world that people of other countries are willing to open their homes and lend their hands in the terrible situation we are now living in.
It is true that the war does make you rethink many things: the real purpose of money, the relative importance of what you’ve been doing all your life, and also how crucial it is to be there for each other.
I really do hope that the price we all now pay for this lesson will not let us forget it anytime soon.
Thank you so much again for your help, Iryna. We will do everything to turn these recommendations into action now!