Vilnius, Lithuania — In a mobile game airplane cook, the player is a flight attendant, a commercial jet full of demanding passengers, microwaves as much food as possible and serves it equally efficiently.
Looking for bugs in this game is the job of Inha Kushnir, a member of the quality assurance team at Nordcurrent, a Lithuanian company that creates and sells airplane cooks and a few other titles. Sitting in front of Nordcurrent’s stunningly quiet Vilnius office desktop computer, in a neighborhood that’s a jumble of glass corporate towers and homes, Kushnir said last afternoon when an online avatar zapping and loading pizza. I searched for a programming flaw. Trolley cart. The work is crazy, so it’s a good way to focus on things other than why she’s in Vilnius and how she came here.
“Whenever I think about work, I stop thinking about what’s happening in Odesa,” she said during the break.
Until late February, Mr. Kushnil worked at Node Current’s Odessa office. Russia then invaded Ukraine, and she and her husband decided that it was safer for her and her couple’s young daughter to leave. Kushnil’s husband, like almost all Ukrainian men, stayed behind.
Today, Mr. Kushneil is part of the Ukrainian Information Technology Diaspora, home to about 50,000 people, most of whom live in Poland, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
Prior to the relocation of these workers, they were one of Ukraine’s largest exports of services, with annual revenues of $ 5 billion, or about 4% of GDP, the IT Ukraine Association said. The country has a highly mobile pool of IT talent, with nearly 300,000 people providing computer and coding services in areas such as e-commerce, artificial intelligence, robotics, and blockchain.
When the invasion began, Nodecurrent, like dozens of other companies, improvised an evacuation plan for employees who suddenly lived in the war zone. Nordcurrent has 250 salaries, nearly half of which are in Ukraine. There are 90 in Odesa and 30 in Dnipro.
For Nordcurrent, founded in 2002, hiring from Ukraine was simply a wise business. The workers there tend to be fluent in English, the common language of the company, and very competent. (In the Soviet Union, the focus on science and technology education is a long-standing legacy.) Since 2014, when Russian troops merged the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine, there is a risk that Russia could invade someday. It came to my mind among the current executives. The threat was spoken so often that, paradoxically, it receded as a source of anxiety.
“We decided to ignore it,” said Victoria Trofimova, the Ukrainian-born CEO of Nodecurrent, who was also cobbled together to oversee the evacuation program. .. “Even when there was talk about the military at the Ukrainian border, we decided to continue as usual.”
The approach noticed noise on the phone on the morning of February 24, after Mr. Trofimova pressed the snooze button on the alarm clock several times. Her father said Russia had invaded Ukraine. She immediately contacted Ukrainian employees and offered to help them escape. Most wanted to stay, but dozens decided that the country was too dangerous for them, or for their parents and their children.
Trofimova’s plans include three bus drivers who traveled twice every four days, a call to the Hungarian Consulate, a small number of volunteers taking insulin for diabetics, and finally. It included the safe passage of 51 people, 3 dogs and 1 guinea pig. Pig.
One of the biggest challenges was finding a bus because most were already booked. After calling, Trofimova found a Romanian operator willing to pick up her employees in Odesa.
“Then I was worried about passports, because many Ukrainians don’t have passports because they have never traveled abroad,” she said. “And we were getting inconsistent information about whether people needed a Covid vaccine certificate.”
They didn’t, it turned out. And the six-hour waiting time at the Romanian border was relatively short, and it was a rather vague crossroads, thanks to Trofimova’s decision to direct the bus to the small town of Isaccea.
Employees at Nordcurrent say that adaptation to new settings is relatively smooth, as Vilnius is an easy-to-navigate city and the company is a family-owned company that has done its best to accept them. Trofimova founded it with her husband Michail Trofimov and his brother Sergej. Their work begins with the first title, Santa Claus Saves the Earth, and leans towards capriciousness. Approximately 12 million people play Nordcurrent games each month and can be downloaded and played for free. Like the better cookware of an airplane chef, buying add-ons earned $ 64 million last year.
The head office has a very non-corporate atmosphere. An old cat is sleeping on the sofa at the entrance of the office on the 3rd floor of the fashionable new building, next to the movie theater and above the coffee shop. The conference room is named after company games such as the Alpine murders and Cooking Fever. For recreation, the snack room has table tennis and food balls.
Like Odesa, Vilnius is a mixture of magnificent old buildings and Soviet architecture, and the first of the 15 Soviet republics to declare independence has welcomed Ukrainians. To help the 50,000 refugees arriving here, a law requiring proficiency in Lithuanian for certain jobs has been suspended.
In the months since the battle began, the departure of Ukrainian technical workers took them all over Europe and around the world. Some people are planning to go home. Others want to stay in place. For the two Ukrainians who left a few years ago and settled in Berlin, the aggression sparked an idea. Created by Nikita Overchyk and Ivan Kychatyi UA talentAn online portal for employers looking for Ukrainian IT workers. It’s basically a matchmaking site and currently has 15,000 job listings.
The founders of the site say that everyone from Ukraine who joins them in Germany should support themselves for culture shock.
“This place is very bureaucratic,” Overchyk said. “There are a lot of rules and you have to receive and respond to 3-4 emails a week. No one in Ukraine will contact you by mail.”
“Many things take too long,” he said. “It’s like using an internet service at home. It took a month. In Ukraine, it takes two days.”
According to men, Ukraine’s beautiful design and ease of use has a premium not found on many German websites. In Ukraine, no one is sweating about protocols and rules when a dilapidated site needs to be updated.
“We don’t have a process,” Overchyk said. “We just get things done. That’s the idea that Ukrainians are trying to bring wherever they go.” We need to do this. Help us do it. “
This spirit of accomplishment is reflected in many stories told by Nordcurrent employees scrambled from Ukraine. Nastya Dahno is an artist in the company’s Dnipro office and met a second bus in the Polish town of Lodz. First, she had to travel by train from Dnipro to Lviv. She took 36 hours instead of the usual 12 hours in the turmoil of the first day of the war. It was a sleeper train with bunk beds that were used like benches. , 4-5 seats.
Spaces were crammed, doors were locked, shades were drawn, and blankets were hung on the shades. The idea was to reduce the light emitted by the train, limit its chances of being discovered by the Russians, and reduce the impact of the glass implosion if the train was attacked. Everyone was instructed to be quiet, especially when the train stopped at the platform.
The most terrifying moment happened about 10 hours after the trip, at midnight, when a man knocking on the door and yelling “Put me in!” Shattered the silence of the stop.
“We didn’t know who was behind the door,” Dano said (and she never knew because it happened). “We thought it could be a criminal or a Russian soldier. No one spoke. We were just silent.”
Like most Ukrainians, most of Nordcurrent’s employees stayed in Ukraine. One of them is Tatyana Margolina, the company’s office director in Dnipro. She recalled in a video chat early on that President Volodymyr Zelensky said that if everyone moved, the economy would collapse. Local government officials then provided gender-specific recommendations on how to spend some money.
Everyone, go to the gym. Everyone, please complete the nail.
“Nail salons have become a place of treatment,” said Margolina. “A woman nailing around here has also taken several courses in psychology, so her salon isn’t just a place to fix your nails. She’s a place to talk.”
As Margorina continues to run Dnipro’s office, her work has a new and uncertain dimension. It’s the sound of an explosion. She hears them often, but she’s crazy about even the silence of the war — even for the people of Vilnius.
Not long ago, Mr. Kushneil was calling his husband when he heard the bomb landing and said he needed to hang up and hurry to the shelter. Within hours, she read that three people had died in a house near the playground where Mr. Kushnil regularly took her daughter. They soon noticed an attack that forced her husband to hang up.
“I don’t understand this war,” Kushneil said with tears on his cheeks, taking off his glasses. “Our life was ruined and broken, and I don’t know why.”