Ukraine war: What it’s like to work from home during Russian invasion


“Sometimes I have to work in the pantry room where I have a small, improvised shelter. When I hear explosions nearby, I go there. Two walls will protect you from splinters. I have a blanket on the floor and fairy lights on batteries so there is lighting. It looks romantic, but I wish I’d never have to experience that.”

Ukrainian Anastasia Kvitka does her best to carry on with her job as a marketing executive and copywriter in Dnipro, but this month alone Russian missiles killed at least 46 people and wounded dozens more in the war-ravaged city.

While Russia bombards the country from the air, and targets power infrastructure in particular, she and her colleagues are learning how to keep going in the most extraordinary of conditions.

At least 46 people were killed by a Russian missile strike on a Dnipro apartment block


It’s an absurd contrast: while the professionals work peacefully at their desks on hi-tech website design, apps and analytics, outside, the barbaric threats of missile and rocket strikes constantly hang over them.

Systematic Russian attacks on Ukraine’s power grid that began in October have damaged an estimated 40 per cent of the electrical network and led to rolling blackouts that have left millions of people without a reliable supply of electricity – sometimes for hours or days at a time.

In some cases, outages are scheduled to spread out what power there is evenly.

Ukrainian authorities have also set up “safe centres”, offering warmth, hot drinks and generators to charge phones and laptops.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has reportedly appealed to western allies for large-scale generators and other equipment to shore up the power grid.

Bordio, a Latvia-based online platform for organising work, has five staff members working remotely in Ukraine, all of whom are carrying on working under the threat of missile and drone strikes.

Vitaly Dovzhenko uses a generator to power his laptop


Power cuts in Ukraine are a regular occurance as Russia targets infrastructure

(The Associated Press)

Aleksandr Pashkov, a web developer from Kharkiv, says: “Up until Russia switched to new tactics and began firing at Ukraine’s energy infrastructure facilities, it was hard to work because we were emotionally distracted.

“But then it became difficult to work in a physical sense, too.

“After each attack scheduled power outages become longer. Sometimes they are 12 hours, sometimes they last an entire day.

“Along with electricity, the mobile network also disappears, so even a fully charged laptop becomes useless for work.”

People shelter in an underground station in Kyiv


Aleksandr, who sent his wife and two children out of the country to safety, has a gasoline generator and a battery that provides five hours or more of laptop work, phone charge, and heating.

But not everyone is so lucky. Power cuts often hamper water supplies and heating.

Anastasia recalls 16 December, when she was forced to hide from nearby explosions, with no water or light.

“Friends from Kyiv wrote that they also had heavy shelling. Dad called from Zaporizhia saying that they had counted 12 shellings.

“Then mobile internet disappeared and I didn’t know how they were. All Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we sat there without electricity or water.

Work is an escape when attacks happen. If I think about what’s happening I think maybe I will die and it will drive me mad

Anastasia Kvitka

“Those were very long three days. The worst thing was to have no news or updates because there was no internet.

“Our apartment without heating had cooled down in a few days, and it was very cold, so we decided to travel to another city early on Monday morning.” 

In the event, she cancelled her trip when power was suddenly restored and she returned to work on Monday as though nothing had changed.

She keeps her devices on charge nearly all the time to make the most of the power while it’s there. During power cuts, her laptop charge lasts for up to five hours, but if the shutdown is longer, she scours the local area for a charging point.

HR manager Nataly Zalevskaya, from Kyiv, has switched to working after midnight because that’s when electricity is more likely to be on.

“During the last attack, the rockets hit a thermal power plant. I was in a public place at the time, working using free wi-fi.

A ‘warmth centre’ in the city of Bakhmut

(Getty Images)

“Suddenly, an air raid alert went off and visitors were immediately asked to leave and shown where the shelters were.

“It was nothing special really until suddenly we heard several explosions very close. Everything trembled in the neighbourhood and people started running to the subway. 

“The subway is, naturally, a very difficult space to shelter in. There are lots of people and everyone panics and paces around.

“Shortly after, mobile connection and internet disappeared. So now all those people are sitting in the subway without communication, without the internet, and have no idea what is going on outside. Complete blackout.”

Digital advertising manager Aleksandr Grigorjev constantly monitors his phone for air raid alerts.

“In my place, the electricity is turned off throughout the day at random times,” he says.

A wounded man on the phone in Donetsk after a shopping centre was destroyed


Workers say they detach themselves emotionally from the continual threat to their lives. “You get used to it,” Anastasia says. “If you take it to heart each time, take it seriously, you’ll go insane. You try to remove your feelings and act logically.

“I don’t have much to do in Dnipro because my friends have mostly left the region.

“So when attacks happen, work is an escape for me. I go to my work room without windows and try to think about work, because if I think about what’s happening I think maybe I will die and it will drive me mad.”

Aleksandr Grigorjev, typical of the resourcefulness that Ukrainians have demonstrated time and again, has found one benefit of the power cuts: he has started reading books again.

Designer Vitaly Dovzhenko says concentrating on work amid the continual threats is hard.

“I feel discomfort all the time; it doesn’t go away,” he says. “I live in constant stress due to the regular bad news – missile attacks in the cities, air defence alerts, my brother is on the front line, and my father is living in the occupied territory.

“Sport and music help a little bit, but I know there is no peace until the Russians leave Ukraine.”

Ukraine War 24

Ukraine War 24

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