A full 8 weeks into Kyiv and my project, I still find myself in the process of getting acquainted with the city and the organization.
IFC has offices in three cities in Ukraine: Mykolayiv, Vinnitsya and the country office in Kyiv. In our country office, we host both the investment side and the technical assistance advisory services side of IFC, a total of 40-60 people, depending on the stage of projects.
Despite English being the official working language (and most staff being able to speak it), Russian and Ukrainian is spoken throughout the office. The office is a mix of local hires and international staff from Central Asian Countries, Russia, USA, UK and even 3 from Canada.
My team’s work area is completely open, and I can see and speak with any member without leaving my chair. The environment is supportive and ocllegial, but they expect a solid work product that meets IFC’s strict standards. I am still just getting the feel of exactly what that means as I meet my first report deadline.
The Kyiv office is perched in the Podil District, a block from the bank of the Dnipro river that runs from the top of Ukraine down into the Black Sea. Podil is an older area of Kyiv which was first populated by merchants and traders who sailed in through the Dnipro and would sell their stuff in this area at the bottom of the hills. Our building, however, is quite new and features all of the amenities of a Western office. The one drawback is fairly regular power outages which have caught me (and my documents) by surprise more than once.
When people ask, I describe Kyiv as a beautiful city … but old. Though the history of this city is all around, monuments and buildings are noticeably in poor condition. Roads and infrastructure built in the Soviet times are also aging. Finally, awkward city planning, especially in the older areas, has caused major traffic congestion from early morning, through to late evening. The metro system is efficient, but similarly busy throughout the day.
Despite a hectic work schedule, I have had the opportunity to visit the famed gold-domed orthodox churches which combine slavic and turkish influences, Independence Square, site of the Orange Revolution in 2004, and a few shows at the National Opera. With work, we made a trip down to our Mykolayiv office, where I was exposed to Ukrainian life outside of Kyiv. Gone were the Black Mercedes and SUVs, the new fahsion malls and exquisite restaurants. Instead, I exposed to a country of small villages with farmers selling their own produce on the side of the highway.
In the coming weeks, we plan to conduct research in Vinnitsya and perhaps Lviv, where I will have the opportunity to visit, and speak with, more of Ukraine.