My 60 Days of Rebuilding Ukraine

This weekend marks 60 days since the Rebuilding Ukraine Agency was founded in order to help Ukraine rebuild from the destruction caused by the Russian aggression. 60 days in the context of what it will take to rebuild the country post-war is a negligible number, and yet the last 60 days were among the most vivid, rewarding and event-filled in my 35-year international business journey. 60 days out of 35 years.

Thus far, it has been almost 90 days that Ukraine has been fighting a brutal, unprovoked war with its Russian neighbor. The war, which caused unimaginable destruction of property and economy, forced millions to leave their homes, cost thousands of lives and hampered hundreds of new births. The war, which caused the entire civilized world to rally around Ukraine and its people, in order to offer unprecedented help and support.

Amidst this global seismic shift, a small group of folks in the US, Canada, Ukraine, UK and EU, have decided that given their extensive international and professional experience, they wanted to help and rebuild Ukraine. Although they did not know when the war would end, what would be the final geographical boundaries, or national security arrangements, these folks were and remain convinced that Ukraine would win and remain independent. They also knew, that regardless of the massive expected reparations, government assistance, loans from international financial institutions and equity investment, Ukraine could use a team of international experts in the fields such as engineering, urban design, agricultural infrastructure, energy, water, healthcare, financing, insurance, legal, compliance and telecom.

They also knew that given the strain on the Ukrainian Government, regional and municipal authorities, as well as on the private business, which was caused by the war, it was necessary to simplify delivery of the rebuilding services and solutions to be offered. They also knew that no matter how much money would be allocated for rebuilding, Ukraine could always use more funding to rebuild and facilitate economic growth. Finally, they knew, that in the world of international bureaucracy, they would need to be nimble and have the capability to react rapidly, make decisions quickly and have a large toolbox of solutions unsurpassed by anyone else. Every one of these folks simply said “I am in, what can I do to help Ukraine rebuild?”

Thus was born the Rebuilding Ukraine Agency – the first international, member-owned, rapid deployment Agency, focused solely on helping Ukraine rebuild after the war. Initially, twenty four professionals and representatives of several companies became members. In the next 60 days, the Agency grew to over 50 members and its growth continues. What follows below, is my personal account of this short, but very event filled journey.

As one of the co-founders of the Agency I have been privileged to quarterback the first 60 days. The emotional highs and lows have been tremendous. Initially, it was difficult to reconcile the fact that with the war raging and missiles flying, people in Ukraine’s liberated cities started rebuilding efforts. The Agency arranged meetings with the Mayors of the war-ravaged towns of Bucha, Borodyanka, Melitopol and holding back tears, its members listened, as the Mayors recounted destruction and atrocities in their cities. The Agency’s Ukrainian-based members visited Irpin and saw first hand the destruction and the scope of the massive rebuilding efforts needed to restore the housing and infrastructure.

I watched, as Agency members from different countries, most of whom who did not know each other previously, started to function as a cohesive team. I watched, as our efforts at the Agency received support and offers of help from the folks at the US Government financial institutions, Ukraine’s investment agencies, and large engineering, agricultural and capital markets firms. I was there filled with joy, when a group of US investors expressed their firm commitment to invest in Ukraine and build a plant to produce badly needed construction materials. I was there, when the Agency forged alliances with the Ukrainian Builders’ Confederation. I participated in very open and candid discussions with a Senior Ukrainian Rada member, the UA Ambassador to the US, US Commercial Service officers, business executives and NGOs and was glad to see that their views on rebuilding the country after the war were mostly aligned. I was amazed to see the level of acceptance and support received through social media platforms. A times, I have been overwhelmed by all the activity required when setting up such an Agency. I am grateful to my team, our members, our attorneys and financial professionals for their support and for their continuing efforts to set this Agency up.

Having US Government maintain availability of Political Risk Insurance and project development grants during the war time, gave me optimism and allowed us to start putting together a pipeline projects, which will need to be financed, as soon as the hot phase of the war ends.

And then there was Nezhin. Although the Agency is not a non-profit, the story of the war-damaged birthing hospital in the city of Chernihiv and of totally underequipped neonatal facility in the city of Nezhin charged with handling overflow of the premie births and births requiring surgeries, moved my colleagues and me deeply. The members of the Agency’s healthcare committee sprang up into action and earlier this week a fundraiser was held, which would enable the Agency to buy, ship and fully oversee the delivery of the badly needed equipment to help rebuild the birthing unit at the Nezhin’s town hospital. More is needed and we will be looking for additional humanitarian funding for this and similar projects.

As all these efforts and meetings were taking place, there were always painful reminders of war. Having air raid sirens go off multiple times during my zoom calls with Kyiv, always caused my heart to race. A three month old baby killed by a missile strike in Odesa, along with his mom and grandma, a shopping center in that city struck by a missile, hundreds of yards from our client’s new construction site, fuel shortages, occupation of Chernobyl and the centralized spent fuel storage facility our team helped finance temporarily falling into the enemy hands…. Our team also came across the dark side and saw that elements of corruption, infighting and malaise were unfortunately are still present in Ukraine war, or no war.

Probably, the most difficult, was the realization that the war is likely to last much longer than I originally thought, thus delaying serious rebuilding efforts and subjecting Ukraine to a much greater human toll, as well as property and economic destruction. Another difficult realization was the understanding that the Agency will not be able to help everyone who will need help. Emotionally this is very difficult to reconcile, amidst the rebuilding needs, which will need to be addressed.

Some years ago, I wrote a book in which I recounted interesting stories and adventures along what was then 25 year international journey. The last 60 days have made every one of those stories pale in comparison and I may one day document the Agency’s and mine journey on what I know will be a constructive and and meaningful effort to help Ukraine rebuild. Slava Ukraini!

Alexander Gordin

This Mothers’ Day My Thoughts are in Nezhin

Until a few days ago, I’ve only heard of Nezhin in a few casual conversations I have had with my colleagues. But that was in another life, before the horrific war unleashed on Ukraine by its “brotherly” neighbors.

Then, last week, this small town suddenly became the key focal point for me and my colleagues at the Rebuilding Ukraine Agency. One of the Agency’s Ukrainian members brought to our attention a situation, which demanded immediate attention. Nezhin’s small-town 30-bed hospital has become the closest destination for the neonatal ICU and complex birthing cases, as the regional hospital in the city of Chernihiv has been destroyed by the bombings. Although Nezhin’s birthing unit was poorly equipped to handle neo natal cases, nothing else was available in the area to replace Chernihiv’s neonatal birthing facilities. The Agency’s team had a Zoom call with the head Ob-Gyn at the site and the horror stories we heard brought tears to everyone who participated on the call.

The Agency’s Healthcare Committee moved into action and within 6 hours set up a team, which would be responsible to fund, acquire and shepherd needed equipment and supplies all the way to the Town of Nezhin and would work with the local doctors and hospital administration to expand the neo-natal and complex birthing unit until the Chernihiv hospital will be rebuilt. Because of the way the Agency is set up, such quick reaction and deployment makes it unique, and allows it to address certain key rebuilding issues ahead of the much needed and much more extensive government, foreign donor and NGO efforts.

Why am I writing this today? Motherhood, on any given day is a special and noble calling, which deseves utmost respect. Motherhood, during the times of war is that much more complex. Giving birth to a new life during war is extremely complex, and stressful. However, giving birth to a premie during war times and not having proper conditions to care for the newborn is unimaginable, unfair and heartbreaking. It is up to all of us not only help Rebuild Ukraine, but also make sure that every newborn in Ukraine has a chance to survive and grow up in a peaceful country, where they can carry on a legacy and culture of its people. Happy Mothers’ Day to all the Moms and a special and heartfelt Happy Mothers Day to all the Mothers of Ukraine!

Rebuilding Ukraine Agency tackles its first project in the town of Nezhin

(May 4, 2022, New York City) Rebuilding Ukraine has announced today that its Healthcare Committee, led by Drs. Daniel Fass and Arthur Zgurov, has agreed to assist a team of prominent Ukrainian pediatricians and neonatologists in helping to expand and equip a neonatal birthing unit and an obstetrics and gynecology department in the town of Nezhin.

As the result of the war taking place in Ukraine, the City of Chernihiv has suffered tremendous destruction from the bombing and rocket fire. Among the casualties, a central hospital, which was the primary birthing and neonatal facility in that city. After the Chernihiv hospital was destroyed, Nezhin, with its small local facility, has become the primary destination to admit and care for the neonatal and c-section birthing cases. Nezhin’s facility was ill-equipped to handle the patient influx and the Ukrainian team put out a call to the Rebuilding Ukraine team to help with the expansion and equipping of the Nezhin’s neonatal department.

The Rebuilding Ukraine’s medical team answered the call and has already started working on identifying and prioritizing the list of neonatal and surgical equipment needed. Sourcing of the needed items will take place in the US and Europe and deliveries will be made directly to Nezhin and will be assisted by the Agency’s Ukraine-based team.

About Rebuilding Ukraine Agency. Formed in March of 2022, Rebuilding Ukraine is the first non-government, international, multidisciplinary, rapid deployment Agency to assist the country of Ukraine, as it rebuilds itself after the war. The Agency is member-owned and is comprised of over fifty respected international and Ukrainian companies and professionals with deep experience in developing, financing, insuring and supplying projects in Ukraine and other developing markets where post-war recovery took place. The Agency’s professionals have expertise tackling complex projects in the sectors ranging from healthcare, agriculture, engineering (power, nuclear, renewable, water, wastewater), urban design, construction materials, equipment supply and construction management, real estate and hospitality, gas exctraction, supply and service, sanitation. Of note, is the Agency’s finance, insurance and legal team, which has a broad tool box of various international financing options, as well as deep expertise in risk management and access to a broad legal panel of several prominent US and Ukrainian law firms.

for additional inquiries contact Tamara Zykova at management@rebuildingUA.com

Bomb shelter to protect from Americans!

Oh, what cruel ironies life can serve. I woke up this morning to learn that the Russian aggressors have started bombing additional Ukrainian cities, including Dnipro (or Dnirpropetrovsk, as it was formerly known).

I shuddered and could not shake a thought of how despite malicious propaganda and bias informational barrage, life sometimes serves up cruel ironies and unequivocal empirical truths, which define the real state of affairs.

About 15 years ago, my team and I were working in Dnipro as contractors on the US Government’s feasibility study to rehabilitate the aging heat and powerplant located at the famous Yuzhmash facility. During the multiweek stay in Dnipro, we got to tour the once secret plant multiple times and on one particularly memorable visit, our guide explained how the workers’ locker rooms were built to double as bomb shelters against American bombs. The building essentially was constructed on giant springs and able to withstand a nuclear blast.

Well, since the fall of the Soviet Union, Americans have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to help Ukraine convert the Yuzhmash Soviet missile factory to civilian use, prop up Ukraine’s space program and created several international joint ventures, which use Yuzhmash’s rockets to lift international satellites into space. Russia has done largely the opposite.

The bombs and rockets, which the builders of the Yuzhmash facility were afraid of, came not from the US, but as a backstab from Russia. It pains me to think that the bomb shelters built to protect against the nation, which has done nothing but help, will now be used to protect Ukrainian people against a devastating betrayal by the “brotherly people”.

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