Give jobs to Ukrainian engineers and get to know them! That is what Nikolay Kirjukhin of the Ukrainian engineering federation calls for. He is sure there will be a reconstruction of the country soon. And that engineers will have the biggest role in it.
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It has been almost a year since Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
For Nikolay Kirjukhin, who is the Engineers Europe-representative for Snio, Union of scientific and engineering associations of Ukraine, February 24 was the start of his flight from the country. He is an engineer in nuclear physics and materials science, and that influenced where he went.
– Based on my area of expertise, I felt that Portugal is the safest country in Europe. It is the furthest from Russia. If there is a nuclear attack, Portugal will be the last country to be affected. I wanted to create a safe place for my family and avoid having to flee again, he says via Teams from Portugal.
Anyone who can work is free
The engineering federation Snio already existed during the Soviet era, having Snio departments at all major companies in Ukraine, at universities and research institutions. After Ukraine became independent in 1991, many new technology organizations emerged and Snio changed its goal from being the main organization to becoming a link to other countries.
A major task for Nikolay Kirjukhin has been to implement Engineers Europe’s certificate EUR ING (European engineering certificates).
Being able to issue the certificates has become even more important after the war broke out, when, according to Snio’s calculations, one million Ukrainians with engineering degrees have moved to the EU.
Nikolay Kirjukhin notes that the financial support that Ukrainian refugees receive is low, and points to that anyone who can work as an engineer ”will be free”.
– My idea is to create tools for Ukrainian refugees to become a natural part of society. In any case, it’s good for the future. After the victory, Ukrainian refugees with a European engineering background will rebuild Ukraine, without corruption, he says.
Nikolay Kirjukhin escaped to Portugal together with his wife, daughter and her two children, the youngest of whom was 7 months old at the time.
His daughter has since moved to Warsaw to be able to perform her job, and Nikolay and his wife now alternate between Portugal and Warsaw.
They have also been back in Kyiv for two months, when the situation was considered safe. But on the day they arrived, October 10, a new period of rocket attacks began and there have been major disruptions with the power supply.
For someone from the EU, it is difficult to understand how much it affects life, says Nikolay Kirjukhin. He mentions being asked by a woman to arrange a written certificate that she is an engineer. To do that usually takes 10-15 minutes.
– In the war realities it took almost two days, due to the power outages.
”One suitcase is enough”
Nikolay Kirjukhin shares experiences both from the past and today. He says that he was working on nuclear energy programs when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
– Soon after, when Ukraine became independent, I saw how former Russian friends became enemies. After many years of working together in joint programs, they said ‘We don’t know you’. It was the first signal, he says.
He also talks about the escape in 2022.
– One experience we made was that one suitcase is enough for two people for six months. You have a lot of stuff, but to survive, one suitcase is enough.
During the year in exile, he has also worked on producing a lecture on what he calls ‘engineering literacy’. He points to the rapid technological development, which makes it hard, regardless of ones profession, to keep up, and that leads to high risks of drawing incorrect conclusions.
The most important message that Nikolay Kirjukhin wants to send to the rest of Europe is: give Ukrainian engineers jobs and get to know Ukrainians.
– It is a chance to learn from each other. I think that between engineers it is easy to connect. Because all engineers through the entire world have the same background in technology.
He is hopeful about the future but believes that the war will continue for another 1-2 years.
– Russia has such great resources, and they have a different mentality.
He breaks in with a story: A Russian and an American meet on Red Square in Moscow. The American says that the United States is a democracy, that he can say bad words to his president and say that the president is stupid – without risking consequences. The Russian replies that they also have democracy. ‘I too can say that your president is stupid.’
Nikolay Kirjukhin points to the contrast with Ukraine.
– During Mr. Putin’s presidency, Ukrainians have elected four different presidents. Thus, we learn about democracy in practice. Therefore, a better future awaits Ukraine. I’m sure there will be a rebuild soon. And the biggest role in it will be for engineers. And we do everything to prepare for that.