April 6th, 2022
The Knowledge Impact Network (KIN) had the distinct opportunity to moderate a panel of three senior Ukrainian business leaders and government advisors actively engaged in supporting fellow Ukrainians speak about their personal stories, an effort to crystalize areas where KIN community members and others can take action.
About 100 members of the KIN network tuned in on March 22, 2022 to ‘Powerful Stories from Ukraine Leaders to Inspire Action’. After hearing the moving stories that brought tears to many eyes, the audience shared the initiatives they are spearheading to assist Ukrainians at scale, in key need areas such as housing, food/medical supplies, and technology.
The audience heard from Dmytro Shymkiv, Executive Chairman of Darnitsa Group, the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in Ukraine; Olena Malynska, CEO of Women Political Leaders, a global network of women politicians, and Lena Minitch, Managing Director of Eurotel Communications. All three are members of YPO’s Kyiv Chapter.
Emblematic of all three, Olena Malynska said the dire situation is all right out of the World War II history books, with the level of destruction “maybe worse.”
“The scale and magnitude of attack and war of destruction, missiles flying over the cities is awful,” she said. “The terrible part of it is that this war targets civilians. It's totally dangerous everywhere.”
Dmytro shared stories of the Russians “shooting civilians standing in the queues for bread.” He is running his pharmaceutical plant 24/7 producing antibiotics and other drugs needed for the war effort, with employees working against the backdrop of constant sirens and sounds of gunfire. He is also producing millions of doses of vaccine to fight the other enemy, COVID-19.
In an interview with CNN, Dmytro said his night shift employees are bringing their families to sleep in the basement of the plant. He told Bloomberg Businessweek “This is our country. This is our front line, and we have to deliver.” And in an interview on NPR, Dmytro said the most pressing need is for intensive care supplies like anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers and bandages.
Dmytro, who is the former Vice-chairman of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine, told the KIN audience “There is a big gap between us and Russia. We built a democratic state. We love democracy. We love freedom.”
Having been on a government leadership call with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the invasion, Dmytro shared with the KIN audience that Putin said “independent Ukraine should not exist. Ukraine should be part of Russia, full stop. That’s his message.”
Dmytro said Ukraine understands it could come under chemical and nuclear attack. “Do you think I am not scared? I am scared,” he told the KIN group. “ It’s my country. I am staying here and I am going to defend it; whatever it takes.”
Lena said the first 10 days of the invasion “was very difficult and especially when you have your family still in Kyiv and still under the bombing.” Life in Ukraine stopped in its tracks, she said, putting all the projects everyone was involved with on hold.
Lena further discussed the broken ties within her family, as some of her relatives in Russia hear a completely different perspective on what is going on in Ukraine and continue to believe the war is just.
The call’s participants were told that while medical supplies were urgently needed as well as donations to the myriad relief efforts, the most helpful thing people in the U.S. could do is urge American companies to cut off all trade with Russia, strangling its war effort.
KIN CEO Elaine MacDonald, who led the call and worked with KIN Chairman Alain Chetrit to arrange it, said “because the mission of the Knowledge Impact Network is to bring together leaders to drive action and impact urgent issues,” KIN was asking everyone to “use this moving talk to inspire us to do something.”
To view the full video recording of this event, click here.