I live in a small town close to Kyiv, where the hydro-electric power station on the Dnipro river is located. Unfortunately we are among the key targets when the Russians try to destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
There have been several “successful” attempts, when the missiles reached the distribution stations. On another occasion they were less precise and the rocket landed on a residential building. A school and three nearby buildings were also damaged.
And people died. I can write about these things, but I am crying now. It just about works if you try to distance yourself from these terrible events as much as you can.
Day to day, my primary concern is to survive. I am partly joking, partly… not. The loss of power and blackouts we had during the autumn and winter were very hard. We have portable gas stoves in our rooms, torches and candles for lighting. Often there is no water, heating or lifts (I am on the 18th floor) and a bad mobile connection.
For much of the winter we have been in survival mode, but we still met with friends, had coffees and wine. We read books (my book club re-opened in November and the first meeting was by candle-light). We have also had to keep working, and my son has had to study. I even managed to complete an online Coursera course this year.
My son does his schooling online whenever possible given the unstable mobile internet connection. This has meant we have to juggle things – you don’t plan anything, but do working, parenting, washing, shopping, cooking, some normal life things at whatever time the electricity supply/internet availability/absence of air alerts let you do them.
I hold a bachelor’s degree, having studied ecology in construction. I then took a course with the Building Research Establishment and became certified and licensed as a BREEAM international new construction assessor. I decided to go into marketing first, but then – as the interest in sustainability in Ukraine started to grow – I decided I would like to go into this field. This decision was welcomed and much supported by Gleeds, who enrolled me in the courses I have now completed.
Apart from issuing BREEAM certification, my work has involved performing environmental due diligence as part of the technical due diligence process, mainly for international clients who are considering the possible purchase of property. Interest in sustainability and ESG has only recently been growing in Ukraine.
I guess the situation is better in other countries, but here we still have people who consider construction and real estate to be men-only fields. This is probably a post-Soviet inheritance and we are losing it more and more as time passes. I would urge any woman not to be afraid of being smart and bold, just as we are. Let everybody see what we are capable of.
We registered two projects for BREEAM certification in December 2021 and a third project was under negotiation. Then, on 24 February 2022, the Russians invaded and everything was put on hold.
At the moment I am able to go out and visit buildings if and when required. In fact life is now going on pretty well in Kyiv and other cities. Last week I went to Lviv to study at the Lviv Business School. Of course I took my son with me and had a meeting with the investment department of Lviv city council.
In some ways I am now able to lead a more or less normal life – although nobody needs to ask why my child comes with me to meetings and when I study. And you see funeral ceremonies for dead soldiers in the centre of the city every day.
During these tough times I have felt support from people from other offices. We were given uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) to have at home in order to survive during cut-offs and be able to charge laptops and mobile phones. What might come as a surprise is that we have still been able to issue several green building certifications during this year of war. People here are making plans for the future and these are optimistic plans.
I thought about leaving during the first month after the invasion, when nobody Knew what the next day would bring. I have relatives in Poland, I received emails from BREEAM assessors with offers of help, accommodation, and a job. I much appreciated this and replied to them all.
“We still have people who consider construction To be a men-only field. I would urge any woman not To be afraid of being smart and bold, just as we are”
Gleeds was also eager to help with anything I decided to do if I did choose to leave. But we decided to stay. I could not abandon this land – and I was not alone in thinking that way.
It is probably still a silly decision given that we are situated in the direction of Belarus outside Kyiv, but we have been the lucky ones as, when the dam was damaged, the river flooded fields with water making it impossible for heavy tanks to move in our direction. So they turned towards Bucha and Irpin instead.
Had the circumstances been different, nobody knows what the consequences of my decision to stay would have been. Now we are all more or less used to the life that we have. Each time I receive my salary, I donate to the army and volunteer funds. Each time we suffer a massive attack, I donate more. This is my contribution to the war effort.
What worries me the most is that the best people of Ukraine – the ones who decided to defend it – are being killed every day. Innocent people are killed because they did not run away in time. Each time I see a funeral, I stop and pay tribute as these are people I don’t know who gave their lives for me and my son to live and breathe freely, with dignity and liberty.
As an ecologist, I also worry a lot because of the pollution that our land, water and air has received from the weapons, spillage and fire. As a mother I worry about vast mined areas which will take years to become safe. But what keeps me strong is the knowledge that we are defending our land and our homes – we are fighting with evil, everybody is on his private front, and the victory will be ours.
One moment that will stay with me is when I saw my son looking out of the window – we have floor-to-ceiling glass windows on the 18th floor – and a military aircraft with two helicopters was approaching. It was 24 February, 2022. This was the moment when I first understood what was really going on.
The second moment I will never forget was on 23 November, 2022, when a rocket hit a residential building in my town. From that moment we never ignored any air alerts.
But there have been good times, too – seeing how united people are, gathering clothes and food, searching for pets who ran away, making temporary windows for all neighbouring buildings. We are eager to live and be happy no matter what. We have learnt to value each moment – live in the here and now, as they tell you – simply because you know it really could be the last one you have.
The only future I can see is our victory. We are fighting with evil, an aggressor who came on to our land and killed our people – women and children. We are defending what is ours. We didn’t ask Putin or anybody to “save” us – we had a wonderful life full of plans and dreams. This is our land; they want to kill us but the life will go on.
After the war, I look forward to being able to make plans again. Now, whatever I plan I remember this all can become nothing in one minute. I want to go to the sea – the Black Sea beaches. They are occupied at the moment. I want to travel with my son across Ukraine, show him de-occupied cities, pay tribute to the dead and give glory to our defenders.
I don’t know when it will end, but I hope it ends soon. This is what we pray for and we will then be very happy. But this will also be a day of sorrow and grief as we all know that many good – probably the best people: young, honest and bold – gave their lives to make it happen. We all shall do more and better then, to make their sacrifice worthwhile.
Tetiana Kanashchuk has worked at Gleeds since 2006. She joined as an office assistant with a diploma from the National University of Construction and Architecture, so this was her route into the construction sector. Today, she is the first and only sustainability consultant with Gleeds in Ukraine.
As featured in Building on 8 March 2023