Like all freelance writers, James Hydzik has to deal with a LOT of grammar admin. “My day involved moving a lot of commas, improving drafts already in English, and creating a variety of material”, he explains.
James, who is one of those mighty-brained multi-talents, routinely writes articles for mega news corporations in English. And I mean MEGA news corporations. We’re talking The Banker, FDI…. Really big guns. The kind of publications I dream about. I’d like to say that James is my counterpart, a fellow freelance writer specialising in finance. But he’s in a whole other league to me.
James = #careergoals. 💪
I imagine him in a swanky townhouse. Reclining at a polished mahogany desk. Firing out headlines with so much punch that they should come with their own boxing gloves. You get the picture. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Because James is from Ukraine, and together with his family he had to run for his life.
Even before the war began, the stress was palpable
The worries began before Putin made the first strike.
“I’d been obsessively working on the upshot of Russia’s troop build-up since the U.S. first announced it in November”, James confides.
“Because of the obsession, we were getting up at 5 am all week to catch the first news of an attack”.
The family knew there was no time to waste and when the news broke, they were prepared. “On the 24th, we were on the road to get out of Kyiv by 7 am”, he adds.
Sirens, sleeping in the car, and worried children
James and his family were fleeing the country when we first made contact on LinkedIn. He told me tales of developing a cold from sleeping in the car, the freezing temperatures, and uncertain futures.
But what was most on his mind was the effect this war would have on his children. “[They] became distressed over the course of the next several days; machine-gun fire in Vinnytsia, waking up to air raid sirens”, he reflects.
Throughout our online conversation, there were stretches of time when James didn’t reply for days. Even though we never met I found myself unable to focus wondering if the family was alive. 😳
It was a relief to see a new message appear. And then at other times, there were surreal moments of normalcy. Comparing notes on our similar (albeit different league) jobs. Discussing article commissions, and topics that were picking up momentum on the fintech scene. The run-of-the-mill stuff mixed with the terrifying realities of war.
A change of plan and finding safety 🏠
Throughout this time, James and his wife made the difficult decision to leave the country altogether until it was safer. Although it wasn’t the original plan, they felt that staying would be too much for the children.
“I was just not going to have a case of, ‘Look, Mummy! There’s an aeroplane up in the sky!’ if I could help it”, James explains.
James and his family are among the lucky few who have a place to go. Tucked away in Sweden, there was a small cottage waiting for them – a kind of holiday home.
Although it wasn’t in perfect condition, it was a welcome relief as they fled Ukraine. “We pulled into our destination in Sweden very late last night and were completely knackered from the road”, James confided. “We have access to cottage near here and it needs a little TLC before we move in - it's been sitting empty for the last two years”.
Throughout my whole communication with James, I was deeply moved by his politeness and resilience. Never complaining and always courteous. James continues to work as a freelance writer today. Recently he even offered me a commission! What a nice guy! 🤝
How can freelance financial writers help Ukraine?
There are around 1.3 billion freelancers in the world. One-third of the global workforce. And a lot of us are writers. Surely there must be something we can do to help? I asked James for his thoughts.
Quick as a flash, he replied, “Support Ukraine’s Fintech and IT community - maintain business relations”.
He’s got a point. Before Putin invaded Ukraine, one in five Fortune 500 companies used Ukrainian IT services – according to Bloomberg. Some of these companies include Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Oracle, Snap, and more.
And although there don’t seem to be many reports that these brands have pulled out, it’s a concern. In March 2022, the IT Ukraine Association’s executive director, Konstantin Vasyuk, reassured journalists that Ukraine’s thriving tech sector is still very much open for business.
For companies who are worried about potential disruptions, James says, “The companies I know put a lot of effort into being flexible and business continuity! Some of those plans were first written in 2014. I know, because I edited them”.
As freelance writers, bloggers, and journalists… we can use our skills to HELP. Big up Ukrainian tech where you can. Give the industry a little boost. Just a line in an article. A stat here. A comment there. You never know how powerful a sentence can be.
To get the ball rolling, here are some cracking stats:
Ukraine’s tech sector is growing by a staggering 25% - 30% annually (Source: Rinf Tech)
Ukraine is one of the largest tech exporters in the whole of Europe, accounting for more than 4% of the country’s GDP (Source: Rinf Tech)
Ukraine’s thriving tech scene is not limited to one sector. While fintech and banking services lead the way, the country is also famous for technological innovations in transport, healthcare, logistics, education, retail, and education. (Source: TechCrunch)
By supporting Ukraine’s tech scene, we can help other freelancers like James 🤝
Being a freelancer often means being a bit broke. Sorry to shatter any illusions there, but it does. So we may not all be able to support Ukrainians economically. But we can with our skills. With something as simple as a carefully-placed stat, we can help promote Ukraine’s tech sector, giving it the credit it deserves. And, indirectly, we can help epic freelancers like James too. 🙌
“As a wordsmith, I thrive in Ukraine’s fintech ecosystem, but I’m not an essential part of it. By continuing to support Ukraine’s developers and keeping business relations going, second-tier guys like myself also find more opportunities”, he comments.
James. You’re so NOT a second-tier guy!!! 😅
🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖 🤖🤖🤖
A massive thank you to James for sharing his story with me, and letting me publish this article. I was also humbled to meet a brilliant blockchain guru, Vitallii, and follow him as the war broke. Read Vitallii’s story here.