A few meters from the United Nations headquarters in Moldova, a narrow road leads to a modern brown building. It is not seen from the street, it is reached through a hidden route. But its shape is certainly striking. Also that on the stairs a group of young teenagers is taking a group photo. They all look like artists or designers. Artcor, located in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, brings together the creative community of this country and, since the war broke out in Ukraine, it has also become a coworking space for Ukrainian refugees .
Since the beginning of the conflict, this place is also something like a refuge for Natalia Kovrígina. A native of Odessa, this 39-year-old Ukrainian took 17 hours to cross the border from Ukraine to Moldova on February 26. She came with her husband, her older sister and their two children ages 8 and 10. Natalia is a freelancer and works as a copywriter for several companies, her husband is a marketing director. Her sister is in a customer service technology company. The three of them have started their lives here again and work every day in this coworking space.
“War does not mean that you do not have to work, business is the foundation for the economy. War is expensive and we need money”, explains Natalia in an interview with Hipertextual. This family from Odessa has what many other Ukrainians failed to get: the ability to work from here.
In their case, the companies they work for continue to operate. Their future is uncertain, but they have the capacity to continue having an economic activity in the midst of the war that has caused 3 million people to leave their country.
Viorica Cerbusca, director of Artcor
About 25 refugees who can continue to work remotely online come to this center in Chisinau. Viorica Cerbusca is the director of Artcor and receives Hipertextual in the offices where the creative community mixes with those fleeing from war. For Cerbusca, offering this space free of charge to refugees is a way to keep Ukrainian companies developing despite everything. Also how to take advantage of the flexibility of many technology companies. “If you have to pack quickly to flee, you can't bring a building with you,” she comments.
Cerbusca would like the war not to affect the productivity of some companies. As long as possible, they can continue to work. Artcor's coworking is, for the director, the way to generate new activities and develop to obtain jobs. “Architects, IT specialists, designers have arrived… All those who come have a relationship with technology companies,” he stresses to Hipertextual.
Some people have been working there for weeks, others have been only a few days because they have traveled to other countries or, if they stay in the country, they have looked for temporary offices.
Artcor has opened the doors of his house, provides fast internet and free coffee. But for Natalia Kovrígina they give much more than that. She defines coworking as a support center “that teaches us that life goes on, that we have to fight and do everything possible to help ourselves”. In addition, she admits that she really likes aesthetics and decoration. Natalia says that she feels at home because, working as a freelancer and in different shared spaces for a long time, these types of spaces remind her of her old life without her war. To a normal life.
Moldova has been the host country for this family from Odessa and initiatives such as the Artcor coworking make them feel welcome. But, in any case, they do not stop hoping that this war will end soon so that they can return home.
Viorica Cerbusca is very satisfied with the reception of her shared workspace for newcomers from Ukraine but has many other projects in mind. She she Is convinced that technology can be a great ally for refugees , especially with regard to their economic activity. One of its initiatives is the creation of a Telegram bot that can connect refugees who are in the same place.
Currently, Ukrainians fleeing the war have come to many European cities and this bot would allow them to connect them. “It can help create a community or offer services. For example, they can say that they are painters, teachers or any other profession and offer their work experience from there. The bot, still in beta, could be a tool for refugees to generate more resources not only outside Ukraine, but also in other areas of the country where Ukrainians fleeing the war have moved.
A Ukrainian technological center, converted into a refuge
In the west of Ukraine, in the city of Lviv, Stepan Veselovskyi has set up the offices of its technological center at the service of people who need a shelter. He is the CEO of Lviv IT Cluster, a technological community that brings together nearly 200 companies in this city that, until a few days ago, had been far from Russian bombing.
Veselovskyi is one of the best-known figures in the technological sector of Lviv and is convinced that this industry is now one of the best-functioning and surviving sectors of the economy from Ukraine. “Some IT companies have moved to more secure regions and most technology companies continue to carry out between 85 and 90% of their usual operations to support the economy”, he highlights for Hipertextual. “The fact that they continue to operate is a strong contribution to Ukraine's victory.”
For the CEO of Lviv IT Cluster, the best that technology companies can do now is to continue operating to provide services to customers. It's their way of supporting the country. Veselovskyi is doing much more. His team started by providing assistance to members of the IT industry and has also advised the Ukrainian Armed Forces on technology issues. Details about the talks are, of course, confidential.
In addition, he opened five centers to house more than 1,100 displaced people from other parts of Ukraine. “The office of the Lviv IT cluster has been transformed into the center for the collection of essential items for the army and people in need. During the first ten days of the war, we sent several tons of humanitarian aid, “says Veselovskyi.
Like most Ukrainians, Stepan could not imagine what was going to happen . From one day to the next, his country was at war. He is aware that he is experiencing an armed conflict that will not be forgotten, among other things, because of the important role of technology. “This is the first time in history that we can follow a war live, the first truly digitized war. We get access to information through Twitter, TikTok, Instagram in a matter of seconds”, he stresses.
Beyond social networks, the Ukrainian government has made a strong commitment to technology as a tool to have more chances to win the war. Through a cryptocurrency fund and NFT initiatives, he raised more than $60 million. In addition, it has used social networks to its advantage as a very effective communication strategy.
But, above all, it has served to make the reality of Ukrainians visible. “The most important thing we can do at the moment is to bring together people of different origins and nationalities and inform the whole world about the situation in Ukraine”, concludes the CEO of Lviv IT Cluster, “ and reach the big international companies and basically anyone to stop doing business with Russia”.