This week I visited Ukraine because the easygenerator development team is located in Zhytomyr (Ukraine). I have been working there but also gained new insights on the situation the country and the history. I thought I should share these experiences with you.
The situation in Ukraine
I have visited Ukraine on average 3 times a year over the past 4,5 years. So I know that life there is very different from my life in The Netherlands. The Soviet history, the corruption, the division in the country all makes living there much more difficult than it is in my save and well-organized homeland. But with the war the situation is deteriorating even in the parts that are far away from the conflict zone.
In our team we have a lot of young men, they all are at risk to get drafted into the army. Imagine that you as a 26-year-old software developer suddenly have to fight against the Russian army. But next to this uncertainty there is more. The history of Russia and Ukraine is tightly intertwined. In the recent history Ukraine has been part of the Soviet Union for a long period, basically making it to one land. This means that a lot of people have relatives living across the border in Russia. Fighting in the east can mean fighting against your own family!
What I learned during this visit is that the history of the two countries is different from what I thought. It is not just that Ukraine and Russia have a shared history. In fact Russia originates from Ukriane. Cities in Ukraine like Zhytomyr and Kiev are older than Moscow. Moscow was founded by Yuri Dolgorukiy who was an Ukrainian Prince that reigned Kiev in the 12th century. So Russia originated from Ukraine some 850 years ago. I didn’t know that and it does place the conflict for me in e new perspective. Making it clear that it is the war of politicians like Putin and local men who want to gain power, influence and wealth. It is not the war of the Ukrainian people. Although propaganda tries to turn it into that.
The other thing is that the war has a big impact on the Ukrainian economy. The worst effect is that the currency the Hrivna has devalued dramatically. Last year 100 Hrivna was worth 10 euro, now just 4. And the fall against the dollar is even more dramatic. It means all imported goods have more than doubled in price (energy, food, cars and much more). It also means that an average teachers salary now is the equivalent of $100. People are really struggling to survive in this economic situation.
Presenting at at Zhytomyr state university
I had the honor to give a presentation at Zhytomyr state university about eLearning trends. I enjoyed doing it.
But at the same time it is a strange idea that you are presenting on a topic like eLearning in a country where there is a war going on and people are struggling to make ends meet (most of the people in the audience are teachers). On top of that eLearning in Ukraine is hardly developed, there is a huge gap with the developments in the European Union and the US. It really made me realize how privileged I am.
Working with my team
I have been working intensely with the development team during the week. And I’m so proud of them. Despite everything that is happening in Ukraine they are not only working but they are improving all the time. Both quality and productivity has gone up significantly over the past months. In the period of a year and a half they have created a tool that already stands out from a lot of other authoring tools. During the past week we made plans to bring out a large number of additions, improvements and innovations over the next half-year. I will not go into detail now, but if you are one of the more than 8.000 users of our eLearning software you might appreciate their effort maybe a little extra.
Even bigger contrast
Next week I will be in Orlando USA, close to downtown Disney to visit the 2015 Learning Solution conference. The contrast will be even bigger. I do have a strange but interesting life. I will blog from the conference every day.