Last night, I returned home from Warsaw, Poland after a weeklong business trip in Europe. This was my second trip to the region in a month. During both trips, Vladimir Putin’s War against Ukraine dominated all conversations once business-specific discussions were concluded.
During my first trip 5 weeks ago, the initial shock of the aggression and its repercussions on the global economy, inflation, and supply chains were the focus of both business and casual conversations. However, during last week’s trip, even though the focus covered the same areas of business concern and system resiliency as the original trip, it was vastly different where Ukraine was concerned. This trip added a very human dimension because of the suffering of millions of displaced Ukrainians, the insecurity of people living next to Ukraine, and the incredible outpouring of kindness and support from Ukraine’s neighbors – in particular, Poland, the United States, Canada, and others.
Initially, when I was in Zurich and Geneva, I had meetings with colleagues during which they described how more than 11,000 Swiss families have registered to accept Ukrainian refugees and that the sheer number of refugees coming from Ukraine is daunting and how the U.S. and Ukraine’s European neighbors have been working quickly to accept the refugees and provide humanitarian support. According to the BBC, “The UN says that as of 6 April, more than 4.3 million people have left Ukraine.” The totals are as follows:
- Poland has taken in 2,514,504 refugees
- Romania 662,751
- Hungary 404,021
- Belarus 18,060
However, when I arrived in Poland later in the week, the immediacy of the problem and its impact upon people was much more acute. Upon arrival at my hotel with a colleague of mine, who lives in Switzerland and who previously worked as a diplomat for the Israeli government, I observed a scene that was awfully familiar. The lobby of the hotel was filled with foreign dignitaries, international news correspondents, governmental contractor types, and NGO’s. This was the same ensemble of people that I encountered in the Middle East and in Iraq during the Iraq War. There were also many foreign businesspeople, such as me, doing business in Warsaw.
Further reinforcing this dichotomy of trying to conduct business-as-usual during wartime was a focused business meeting with a partner firm of Enterra that we are doing business with in Poland. This meeting occurred right after I toured an Innovation Center with dozens of young technologists in the lobby of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) networking about innovative new businesses. Our firm is contemplating establishing a software engineering and innovation presence at this Innovation Center that looks very much like our office in Cambridge, MA. Juxtaposed to these technology- and business-focused meetings were meetings with other people discussing how Polish society was managing more than 2.5mm displaced Ukrainians, who are being given humanitarian assistance at the border and then being placed in the homes of families and their children being enrolled in school. The photograph accompanying this article shows some of the Ukrainian children who are enrolled in Polish schools.
Underlying all of these meetings was the incredible humble pride of the Polish people about what they have been doing for the Ukrainians, accompanied by a strong resolve to continue helping them. There is a palatable sense of uncertainty and concern that Poland would be the next country to be attacked. This inherent insecurity is a mental and productivity tax that the people are paying for their proximity to a war zone. Yet, through all of this, the market is exceedingly strong for talent in the technology and advanced analytics space. Quickly following the humanitarian response will be the need to employ people and allow them to resume their lives as a diaspora, or when moving back to Ukraine if things become stable and reconstruction hopefully begins.
The vital spirit of the Ukrainian and Polish people encountered during this trip represents the type of personal resilience that is born out of necessity, intensified by suffering, and guided by a humanitarian moral code that allows these nations to persevere and flourish. This personal resilience forms a pattern of positive personal behavior that I fortunately recognize when strong people face unfortunate circumstances and one that is closely aligned with Enterra Solutions’ company values. We wish the people of Ukraine Godspeed and thank the people of Europe for taking these displaced people in their homes and putting their children in school.
 Staff, “How many Ukrainians have fled their homes and where have they gone?” BBC News, 7 March 2022.