The Economy Putin Didn’t Really Ruin

“What’s really frustrating are customers who work with Russian companies and don’t want to change,” Ms. Hameliak said. “I try to be polite.”

Last year, the Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International ranked Ukraine as the second most corrupt country in Europe, behind Russia. For years a small group of oligarchs owned much of the economy and corruption was rampant. Equally serious, an underground economy of unreported transactions has long eroded the tax base. Four years ago, the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology estimated that 47% of Ukraine’s gross domestic product was essentially invisible to the government.

The situation is improving, say many leaders here, as more companies compete for contracts in the international economy, where integrity is more valued. But young entrepreneurs understand that before the war made the country a symbol of resistance, there was an image problem. And there was no need to wait for the government to fix it, or even provide basic social services, like a safety net. People here live on what they earn or don’t retire or live in misery.

Staff understood that businesses risked haemorrhagic customers and would disappear if they could not prove they were just as viable as they were the day before hostilities began. Also, focusing on the work was a good way to ignore the horrors that were unfolding.

“We felt a lot of emotions, and most of them were pretty negative,” said Illia Shevchenko, Ukrainian manager at EPAM Systems, a Pennsylvania-based digital product design company with offices across the country. Ukraine. “The best way to distract yourself from these emotions is to work. There is a specific task. Sit down and think.

Mr Shevchenko was speaking by video call from a small bedroom in an apartment in Kremenchuk, where his wife and two children moved shortly after the attack on Kharkiv, their former hometown. He wore a red T-shirt with an illustration of Einstein on it and gave a tour of his new office that lasted about six seconds. He lifted his laptop and pointed it at the small table and chair where he now works.

Julio V. Miller