But on February 24th, it was gone. There was a new, unexpected and horrifying reality for everyone in Ukraine. Still, no matter how challenging it was, we had to find our way to adjust to this reality. For a moment, everything stops, but everyone quickly realizes that we have to keep on keeping on. We have to establish some new form of normalcy in which we can still work and take care of our families.

So, as a software developer who found himself in this life-changing scenario, I would like to:

  1. Share some of my experiences from the last months.
  2. Advise you on how to prepare for this kind of situation.

If you’re in a similar position, or you smartly want to prepare for this eventuality, I hope this article will help you in any way possible.

The looming threat is never scary enough

The current conflict between Ukraine and Russia didn’t start in 2022, but in 2014 with the Donbas War and the annexation of Crimea. Over the last couple of years, there were many signals that it could escalate. Unfortunately, it feels like, as humans, we often lose ourselves in everyday life and forget about such threats. Or maybe we optimistically want to believe that it just can’t happen.

And, even if we want to prepare for it, we can’t really, because we have no idea what we’re preparing for. Every war is different, so we don’t exactly know what supplies will be essential. But, more importantly, not having lived through it, we’re not able to prepare for it mentally.

So, it finally happened. We weren’t scared enough, we wanted to believe that it won’t be us, it won’t be now, so we were shocked by an enormous threat and had very little idea of what we should do. One thing was for sure, though. We weren’t able to work.

It’s only natural to take a break from work

There is no question that there are far more critical things to take care of in a situation like this than work stuff. Safety always comes first, and by safety, I mean not only being in a secure place but also having all the necessary supplies. Gathering all the food, equipment, and fuel can be a challenge by itself.

But, even if you tried to work, a wide range of emotions, from helplessness and panic to apathy, may kill all your productivity. On top of that, you’re constantly surrounded by distractions, and there’s this uncontrollable desire to read news and updates every 10 minutes. One article leads to another, then there’s a 15-minute YouTube video, and maybe one more, a bit longer after that. All of a sudden, 3 hours passed.

Obviously, I’m not saying it’s wrong to read the news during the war, but it’s far too easy to let it consume your entire time and headspace. And, in the long run, you’ll need that to start working again eventually. In my case, it took about 2-3 weeks to be able to focus on work again, but make sure to take as much time as you need. Most importantly, don’t feel bad for taking a break.

Of course, it’s very easy to say so. When it all started, and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to work for some time, I was constantly worrying, “what about my projects? what about clients and my teammates?”. That probably wouldn’t go away for quite a while, but, fortunately, I’ve been receiving continuous support from the entire Code Poets team and especially Adrian, Code Poets CEO, who’s also my friend.

We’re not soldiers but we’re still fighting

The commitment to all the projects I was involved with wasn’t the only reason why I felt terrible after the war had started. As a young, capable man in a country under invasion, for a long time, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt that some of my friends are out there, risking their lives, and I’m not. It wouldn’t go away for quite a while, but in the end, I came to peace with the fact that I’m simply not a professional soldier and I had absolutely no training. More importantly, it’s possible to contribute in many other ways through work, supplies, donations and even emotional support.

For example, a few weeks ago, I organized an auction for my teammates at Code Poets. All the raised funds were used to buy a car for my friends in the Ukrainian Army. On top of that, there’s always a need to deliver something, fix some necessary device or simply talk and help each other mentally. All of those things are incredibly important, and each contribution can potentially save someone’s life and our country’s independence.

Few short tips for work and daily life during wartime

1. Revise your web security

In the current era, war takes place online too, so you should take special care about what you say and share on the Internet. More importantly, turn on 2-step verification whenever you can, make sure that your passwords are difficult enough and you don’t have the same one for multiple accounts. If you don’t want to remember them all, I highly recommend using BitWarden, which is a secure password manager.

2. Don’t let internet issues and power outages stop you from working and being connected to the outside world

Stack on power banks. Big ones, if that’s what you and your family needs. Power outages can last for a long time, and while you’re out of energy, your electronic devices are absolutely vital not only for communication and reading news but also for entertainment. And we all need some sort of escape from reality to stay sane. It’s also good to have a few books, cards or other things to keep you occupied while you’re stuck at home.

Additionally, if you have an electric kitchen, get a small gas cooker.

3. Be prepared to evacuate anytime

Move all your essential and valuable belongings to a suitcase and keep them there. If you use any of them on a daily basis, make sure to put them back there as soon as you finish. An evacuation call can happen any minute, and you shouldn’t waste time packing your bags. You need to be able to just grab them and go.

4. Don’t let your guard down

At this point in time, I’m in a relatively safe zone, and we’re not targeted by missile attacks. That, over time, lowered my awareness compared to the first days of the invasion. But it can change anytime.

While working on this article, I realized that my “ready-to-evacuate” bags are missing some key items I would need in case me and my family have to run. Luckily, I haven’t had to learn this the hard way, but when the danger isn’t that close, we easily forget about the necessary safety precautions that we’ve been working on. So, try to make a habit of it. At least once a day, make a quick check that you have all your personal documents and essentials in place.

5. Listen to trusted sources of information

The previous point is tightly connected to this one. There is plenty of disinformation all over the internet. Be especially careful of any news that is spread by untrustworthy sources. Try to build a verified set of websites and journalists that you know you can trust. The most trustworthy are usually the official ones like the Department of Defense, but even in this case, you need to be careful. You may stumble upon websites or social media accounts that look very similar to those official ones but are actually just clones created by people who spread false and potentially dangerous information.

And, make sure to actually listen to a piece of good advice if you hear one. It can save your life.

A letter to myself from before February 24th

The outbreak of war wreaked chaos in both my professional and private life. I had to cope with the sudden loss of security and various difficult emotions. And after all this time, I still haven’t returned to my full work time from before the invasion started.

Fortunately, thanks to a supportive work environment, I somehow got back on my feet and returned to work in quite a decent capacity.

If I could send a few words to myself from before the invasion started, the first thing I would say is “be prepared, read the signs, and make the crucial decisions that will help you manage the situation if it happens”.

If you’re in a similar situation, I hope my article was in any way helpful. Stay strong.

To everyone else, I hope you’ll never need it. Glory to Ukraine.