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Alex Nichiporchik shares tinyBuild's staff support plans ahead of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

"If you can do anything here, highlight the travel issue. Encourage the UK and other governments to create a simplified GAMEDEV-VISA procedure."
Alex Nichiporchik shares tinyBuild's staff support plans ahead of Russia's invasion of Ukraine
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Alex Nichiporchik is CEO of tinyBuild.

I think about a story my late grandfather told me. How, when the Second World War broke out, he took his wife, their three kids, and a cow into the deep swamps and forests of the Brest region in Belarus. They ended up having eight kids in total.

Meanwhile, my other grandpa was 17 and fought on the front. I remember clearly how both of them wished I would never have to experience anything like what they had.

Anyway

In November 2013, we were in Kyiv at DevGAMM - at the time the biggest gamedev event in the region - where I was hosting a panel discussion. Suddenly, we heard explosions and gun shots. It was the start of the Maidan revolution, also known as the Revolution of Dignity.

We have first-hand experience of shit hitting the fan.

This is one of the main reasons I always have an emergency bag packed and stashed: meds, cash, protein bars, weapons, and basic riot gear.

On January 20, tinyBuild held an emergency meeting to lay out a plan: covering everything to the worst case scenario. Most of our plans relied on a less severe scenario, where airspace wouldn't get shutdown: who goes where, and arranged planes to shuttle people around. Unfortunately we're in the worst case scenario, with shelling of the airports and critical infrastructure.

In this event, it's a gamble of what's safer: to leave or to sit it out.

We have first-hand experience of shit hitting the fan.

Leaving means cars. Fuel becomes the most important resource: we're talking a full tank AND two-times that in canisters. It takes up a lot of space. You need to have enough water and basic protein with you. All this weight reduces your range. You also need to consider the panic on the roads. It's gridlock all the way. Everyone rushes towards the west, mostly to Lviv.

We considered meeting people in Lviv by renting apartments, and setting up one of the studio's offices into a make-shift camp site.

The other option of waiting it out is a tricky one. You need to have a safe location away from the path likely to be taken by the military, and far away from critical infrastructure. You need to have prepared with stockpiling non-perishable food, cash, water, and camping gear for cooking such as gas burners.

You need to think ahead: if the apartment building house has no utilities, how would you survive two weeks in a situation like that? You need to have rice, canned food, water, gas, wet wipes, medicine, and a 'go bag' that you can just grab and run in case of critical evacuation emergency.

You look like a paranoid moron

All of this takes a lot of planning. When you start explaining it to colleagues, you look like a paranoid moron.

I believe it's important to be as pragmatic as possible in situations like this. If you're going to spend energy on social media on the subject, go ahead and search for factual and useful information – venting isn't going to help anyone. Which country is supporting refugees? What are evacuation paths? People are stressed; share insights on stress management. Whatever you do, make it useful. Spend your energy on helping your colleagues.

I've given out full financial support to team leads in Ukraine and to support their colleagues to safety.

We have a central group coordinating relocation.

In anticipation of these events, we've prepaid everyone we could, including our Russian colleagues as we thought there would be a risk of them being cut off from the SWIFT banking system.

Encourage the UK and other governments to create a simplified GAMEDEV-VISA procedure.

I've authorised a global relocation budget for everyone in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine and we're prepared to meet everyone able to get to the EU in either Latvia or the Netherlands, where we have offices and housing.

For those unable to get to the EU because of visas, we've been working on alternative options.

If you can do anything

It's very important to understand – no disrespect – that people in the west have always had the privilege of free travel. Most people from eastern Europe, myself included, need visas to visit most places.

Only a few years ago, Ukrainians were allowed visa-free travel to the EU. Our colleagues in other countries can't just go to the EU or US or UK. This is a major logistical and legal challenge we're working through.

So if you can do anything, highlight the travel issue. Encourage the UK and other governments to create a simplified GAMEDEV-VISA procedure.