Moment is publishing regular updates from Helen, a Soviet American Jew living in Kyiv. Read all the diary entries here.
Many Kyiv residents are coming back from refuge. The population of the city has increased by around one million people over the last 50 days. However, for those who are trying to reestablish businesses, it’s still extremely challenging.
My student Kyril moved to Kyiv from Donetsk in 2014 at the age of 28 and managed to start a new life. For him and others from the Donbas region, who escaped one Russian invasion only to go through another Russian attack and its consequences, this war is especially arduous both psychologically and financially.
Kyril used to be an in-demand TV show stylist creating outfits for Ukrainian celebrities, pop music groups and TV hosts. Among his biggest accomplishments was costume designing for the Ukrainian adaptation of the British show From Ladette to Lady, which was showcased on the Ukrainian popular channel for five seasons. Kyril also styled, among others, the prominent Ukrainian singer Nataliya Mogilevskaya, who courageously performed in bomb shelters in the first days of the war.
Kyril and his partner own a small design studio where they produced outfits for their celebrity clients. Now, with the entertainment shows on hold, he tries to get orders that will give him the opportunity to earn money and keep the business afloat. At the beginning of the war, he bought special fabric and used his facility to make and sell 100 military uniforms. But now, this fabric is out of stock in Ukraine, and buying it abroad is too expensive, given the current situation.
Now Kyril feels that he is in the second season of a Netflix suspense television show.
The only factory in Ukraine that produces the camouflage fabric needed to make uniforms is in Cherkasy, around 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Kyiv. The factory is not allowed to sell this fabric without the approval of the Ministry of Defense. Writing or calling the Ministry proved futile.
Being creative, Kyril used all his network, and eventually—through his college friend’s husband, who is a financial director of a major chain of grocery stores—was routed to the key person at the factory and the contact information for the person in charge of such projects in the Ministry of Defense.
The request for the camouflage fabric had to be printed out and sent by mail to the Ministry, where this request would be stamped and sent, again by mail, to the factory. Even finding a printer is a challenge because many offices are still closed. But Kyril managed!
Three weeks into this ordeal, keeping his seamstresses and pattern-makers idle while paying their salaries, Kyril thought the show was finally getting on the road. Little did he know! The response from the Ministry of Defense said that the request for the fabric should have been co-signed by a military unit commander for whose unit the uniforms are being made.
So back to the friend’s husband for the military contact. Success! A few Ukrainian towns agreed to purchase Kyril’s uniforms for their special Territorial Defense Forces, and the updated version of the request was resent to the Ministry of Defense.
The prospects are promising. The fabric factory manager assured Kyril that enough camouflage fabric for 100 uniforms would be sent soon–in a month! And a second shipment is promised in two months.
Even with such virtuous undertakings, operating a business in Ukraine today is so unbelievably complicated!