This Ukrainian tech publisher is now offering survival advice

  • Vera Chernysh is the editor of three of Ukraine’s largest tech and business news websites.
  • MC.today, ITC.ua and Highload.today reached 4 million people every month.
  • But the war ruined her business, so she launched a crowdfunding campaign to save it.

Vera Chernysh and her collaborators had not written about the war until last month.

Her publications “MC.today”, “ITC.ua” and “Highload.today” usually contain articles on technology, business and careers. They reached 4 million people every month.

Now they need to know where is the best place to hide during a bomb attack, what to do when a chemical explosion is nearby, and how to build an air raid shelter at home.

“Right now nobody is interested in how to fund their own IT business,” said Vera Chernysh, CEO of Creators Media Group, which owns the three publications. “All they care about is how they can save their business, and more importantly, themselves.”

The MC.today homepage has its own tab called Combat and Victory.

When readers click on it, they are presented with War Survival Tips.

She said the articles are intended to provide important information to her readers, but the writing also helps her journalists do something worthwhile during the war.

“Everyone’s working like crazy right now, we’re releasing an incredible amount of content,” Chernysh said.

“Everyone wants to be useful, to do something.”

The conditions under which Chernysh’s team is currently working are hard to imagine.

One of their editors, gaming expert Artem, gets up at 6am to defend his hometown in the Territorial Defense Forces. After lunch he goes home and writes his articles on his laptop.

One editor worked one day from the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa, the next from western Ukraine, and the next from Poland.

Another employee fled Kyiv to a neighboring village at the beginning of the war to hide with her family, dog and two cats. Then Russian troops moved in and she made it back to Kyiv at the last minute. From there she fled to western Ukraine with her family of five.

“That’s where they live now, in a tiny apartment that costs a fortune because there are so many refugees in the region now,” Chernysh said.

She told Insider that her designer texted her on the second day of the war: “Vera, if I can’t write to you tomorrow, I want you to know that your job was the best I’ve ever had.”

The man, a media designer, was in Kharkiv, which was heavily shelled, at the time. Chernysh’s voice cracked as she told Insider this story over the phone. Luckily, she said, her colleague managed to flee the city.

Another employee could not leave Kyiv because her ill mother would not have survived the trip. Six to seven times a day, Chernysh cuts off communication with her because of sirens. “Then she has to run into a bunker with her mother.”

Chernysh told Insiders she hadn’t heard from two of her journalists, who were around the age of 25, for weeks. “They are in Mariupol,” she said, “and that is the greatest suffering my team and I are going through right now.”

Mariupol is the port city in south-eastern Ukraine, surrounded by Russian troops and cut off from the rest of the country. It was the scene of some of the most brutal events of the war, and many are now without food and water.

It has been almost three weeks since the last message Chernysh and her team received from one of their colleagues stuck in Mariupol. “In it she just wrote that she was in the bunker and had no water or food,” Chernysh said.

Every day her team now checks the list of names of people who could be evacuated from Mariupol – hoping that their colleagues may have figured it out.

Chernysh lives in Portugal, where she has lived with her husband for several years. From there, she helps organize evacuations for her team members, puts them in safe places in western Ukraine or other countries, and tries to save her company.

Chernysh launched a crowdfunding campaign to both pay her staff and support her journalism.

“Our releases have always been funded by advertisers,” she said.

“But at the moment, of course, nobody in Ukraine wants to advertise anymore.”

Her three websites, which had grown tremendously since their inception in 2012, are on the brink of collapse, she said.

“I don’t have enough money right now to pay my staff for March.”

In February, she had to use up company reserves to pay everyone. “My employees have to eat, drink, pay rent,” she said, “and I’m their employer.”

This is a translation of an article originally published on Business Insider Germany on March 18, 2022. It has been edited lengthwise.

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