A version of this piece was initially published in PR Week.
“Thanks for the weapons. We really appreciate it.”
This is not something I’d normally expect to hear from a colleague on a Monday morning.
But this was the response a few weeks ago, from one of our team based in Lviv, a city in the west of Ukraine, as his country contemplates a Russian invasion.
Lviv is a stunning place, steeped in history, from the birthplace of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch – whose surname will be familiar to the deviants among us – to its wide, cobbled streets, imposing Austro-Hungarian architecture and beautiful churches of different denominations dotted around the city.
The results of previous invasions can still be seen, however. Empty plots stand out in otherwise complete blocks, where synagogues from the city’s previously numerous Jewish population were razed by the Nazis.
It’s not just my colleagues who are concerned. The global community has grown increasingly alarmed by the situation in the east of Ukraine, where Russian troops have amassed just over the borders in Russia and Belarus.
In response, many nations have been providing Ukraine with the resources to deal with an invasion – hence their thanks for the weapons.
For many, Ukraine feels far away. The conflict there is unrelated to our world. How could this have any effect on us?
But here at Cast From Clay, it’s a little more real. We’ve had a team in Lviv for a few years now. We have three colleagues there, and we’re in the process of recruiting two more.
Photos from a recent trip to Lviv
We aren’t the only ones.
Ukraine has a world-leading software industry. With major development hubs in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Dnipro, and Odesa, Ukrainian firms build and maintain many of the websites and applications you use every day.
In the comms world, many designers and developers based in Ukraine are white-labeled by UK and US comms firms.
An invasion would hit these companies hard, with a real impact on UK technology and creative industries.
It’s not just the potential for economic fall-out that concerns me, however; there’s a real risk of a humanitarian crisis on the horizon.
As a result, there are things on our meeting agendas concerning issues that I’d never thought we’d need to discuss.
Prime among them is: how do we support our team in the face of invasion? What can we actually do? Are we going to move our team and their families somewhere safer?
It’s a strange place to be, where one of the questions on your weekly team call is asking people how they feel about the prospect of their country being invaded.
In such an event, it seems unlikely that Russian forces would advance as far west as Lviv, but that’s little consolation for my colleagues, who are suffering unprecedented stress.
What is clear is that international support is welcome and appreciated.
Despite the never-ending distraction of Boris Johnson’s Government, I hope Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and the MoD continue to act as they have done.
Our friends in Ukraine need all the support – weapons or not – we can give them.