The experience of one crypto entrepreneur in Ukraine has become emblematic of the daily struggle of millions in the country, balancing survival with support.
With Russia’s invasion of his country, Andriy Velykyy has now found himself juggling his still operating crypto business with his own humanitarian project. Meanwhile, he is also trying to keep his wife and one-year-old son safe. “My family, my wife, and my child, they don’t want to leave the country without me,” he said.
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Friends and family had warned Velykyy for weeks that he should leave Ukraine, as tensions rose along with the number of Russian troops massing at the border. But Velykyy wanted to continue working closely with his colleagues in tech hotspot Kyiv on his crypto startup, Allbridge. “I didn’t believe the situation could get this bad,” he said.“I do regret that decision right now.”
Ukraine evacuation efforts
Velykyy fled the county’s capital Kyiv on March 1, following a Russian airstrike on a major TV tower. After a distressing incident running out of fuel en route to the relatively safer western part of the country, Velykyy and his family have managed to find accommodation in a hotel converted into a humanitarian camp. As co-founder and CEO of Allbridge, which he spends half the day working on, he has been able to leverage connections in the crypto community to support local relief efforts.
However, unlike other Ukrainian crypto founders who have been able to coordinate relief efforts, he has been unable to relocate employees abroad. While three employees have managed to make it safely abroad, another 14 are strewn across western Ukraine. Although over 2 million people have already fled Ukraine, men ages 18 to 60, including Velykyy at 36, are required to stay in the country in case they’re needed to fight. Rather than seeing combat, however, Velykyy will instead be applying his unique skill set to the effort. “If I work using my laptop, I would bring more help than if I fight somewhere around the city with my rifle,” he said.
Along with other crypto entrepreneurs, Velykyy helps manage crypto relief effort Unchain, which has raised more than $3 million in donations. Velykyy has also used funds given to him personally to procure non-military supplies like medicine, food, water, and stretchers. One of the biggest donations came from one of his company’s investors, who donated $20,000 in the USDC cryptocurrency, which was used to buy two buses to transport supplies.
The U.S. government estimates that currently, at least 12 million are in need of humanitarian aid across Ukraine. Corporations, wealthy individuals, and charity organizations have donated $344 million as part of a global relief effort, according to donation data tracker Candid. Meanwhile, over $63 million in crypto assets has been donated to the Ukrainian government, according to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic.
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