Why do IT specialists return to Kharkiv? Experience from a SoftServe professional

IT Cluster IT Cluster

Relocating due to the war in Ukraine has become a significant challenge for both companies and IT specialists themselves. It involves not only moving workplaces but also adjusting to a new life context. This highlights the strength of human adaptation to unforeseen circumstances and the importance of mutual support during these difficult times.

However, there’s another experience: when IT specialists are safe at the start of the war but choose to return home despite everything. How and why could one trade safety for life in a city just 40 kilometers from the aggressor country? Kharkiv IT Cluster explores this in a conversation with Svitlana Musiyenko, Senior Talent Operations Manager at SoftServe.

The Beginning of the War

Svitlana has been working in the IT field since 2011. Along with colleagues and friends, she often traveled abroad. However, she never had the desire to leave the country for long: trips or vacations abroad — yes, of course, but not living there.

«Although I’ve traveled to various corners of the world, seen many interesting things, different cultures, and different people, I’ve always enjoyed living in Ukraine. I think many of those who have moved abroad will understand me well: there’s a lot of great stuff out there, but home is home», — shared Svitlana.

When the full-scale invasion began, Svitlana was on a business trip in Mexico, while her husband was in Kharkiv. In her opinion, she was indeed lucky to be outside Ukraine at the start of the war, as it allowed her to assist her family and colleagues with coordinating evacuations, accommodation, and fuel.

Later, thanks to friends from western Ukraine, Svitlana and her husband ended up in Lviv. Dealing with long-distance relationships was not new for their family. In previous years, at the beginning of the conflict with Russia, Svitlana’s husband worked in the East.

«We’ve had plenty of experience with long-distance relationships, so in March, I came back to Ukraine, initially staying in Lviv permanently. I feel sorry for families who have to maintain long-distance relationships today. It’s a painful topic, and I can only imagine how difficult it is for them», — adds Svitlana.

While Lviv has plenty of Svitlana’s colleagues to meet up with, have coffee, and chat, she longed for home, Kharkiv, her familiar and beloved city. However, this longing wasn’t associated with nostalgia for the past. On the contrary, it was a sense of duty to return and defend her home, help the people and defenders of Kharkiv region. And so it happened.

Returning Home and Volunteering

For Svitlana, volunteering is a way to channel her own anger and aggression towards Russians into constructive and productive action. It’s also her personal way of fighting back. Collecting funds for equipment, vehicles, tactical medicine — this is only a small part of the volunteer needs that Svitlana and her team have managed to meet during this period. Thus, while working a regular job in an IT company, she has the opportunity to help those who are currently facing much greater challenges, our soldiers.

«I have a pretty strong psyche; I’m stress-resistant enough to pull myself together and do what needs to be done», — shares Svitlana.

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Svitlana also mentioned that she is proud of the activity of SoftServe’s corporate fund «Open Eyes»This fund has many projects, among which the large and important Drive for Life stands out. Its goal is to acquire a large number of ambulances for the front lines to evacuate the wounded. Each ambulance requires individual medical equipment, such as ventilators, laryngoscopes, defibrillators, patient monitors, additional stretchers, oxygen concentrators, and other resuscitation equipment.

As of today, the fund’s team, together with volunteers, has provided over 150 fully equipped ambulances and medical evacuation vehicles to the front lines, with 24 of them directed to the Kharkiv region. Over the course of a year, these vehicles were able to evacuate and save approximately 5,400 lives.

Why are people starting to return to Kharkiv?

Kharkiv is a fairly dynamic city. This is its distinctive feature: the pace at which Kharkiv residents build, restore, and create various things. Kharkiv has always been quite progressive and rich in talent. SoftServe’s Kharkiv office reached the milestone of 1,300 employees on the eve of the full-scale war — growing more than threefold in three years. Of course, the full-scale war forced employees to relocate from our region, but since April 2023, more and more people have been returning to Kharkiv.

«I love communicating with colleagues from different cities and have the opportunity to observe not only human personalities but also the culture and traditions of our great country. For example, we work and solve issues at different paces, which is quite normal. Personally, the familiar pace of life in Kharkiv is comfortable and convenient for me», — noted Svitlana.

Kharkiv has always been a city of opportunities. In addition to the incredibly dynamic life of the city, Kharkiv, as banal as it may sound, is quite green, with a climate characterized by moderate humidity and distinct seasons. All this, perhaps simple things that are rarely thought about until you have the opportunity to live differently and compare.

«Simple things, little things, make up the puzzle. The reason why I returned to my hometown is based on the combination of factors. I think the same worked for a large number of Kharkiv residents who, unfortunately, had to leave for safer regions but somehow returned. I feel much better at home».
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The love of Kharkiv residents for their city is special. It is worth remembering our resistance in this war. The resistance that began many years ago, since the events near the government buildings, which Kharkiv remembers well. Returning home is part of our resistance, the desire to live a normal life and win the war against the occupiers.

Transition to Ukrainian: creating a speaking club and the final eradication of Russian in all spheres of life

Like many Kharkiv residents, Russian was the main language of communication for Svitlana. But after February 24, everything changed: she decided unequivocally to transition to Ukrainian, even when those closest to her had not yet considered it. And now she is a great example of how one can completely stop using Russian.

For Svitlana, the Ukrainian language is a reinforcement of national identity. During this time, she managed to start a conversation club. From her own statistics, she shared that the attendance of classes is about 7-8 people, with about 5 attending regularly. In nine months of the club’s existence, all its participants have become proficient in Ukrainian and use it regularly.

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«I really want to support those who speak Surzhyk. You’re cool, keep it up. It’s good that you’re trying, making mistakes, but trying to gradually switch to the official language», — Svitlana remarked.

How can one effectively and permanently transition to Ukrainian if they’ve spoken Russian all their life? Svitlana offers several pieces of advice:

  • Read in Ukrainian, whether it’s books, news, articles, etc.
  • When encountering a new word, take note of it and learn its meaning.
  • Watch interesting Ukrainian content.
  • If speaking is still difficult, start with written communication (it may take longer than usual to write during the first week, but the results will come very soon).

Personally, Svitlana is pleased that her native city is gradually becoming Ukrainianized: more and more Kharkiv residents are speaking Ukrainian. And the most pleasant thing is that Russian narratives about people from the East not knowing Ukrainian are completely shattered by such examples.

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