"It's such a terrible and sad morning. I can´t describe how crushed and devastated I feel inside - it is so enormously depressing ...
Right now, the most important thing is that we all stay safe at home and take good care of our families and loved ones. Let's keep in close contact with each other!"
Those were the spontaneous words from MatchOffice CEO Jakob Dalhoff to his 40 employees of his company located in Lviv when he Thursday, February 24th, learned that his worst fears had turned into reality.
As early as mid-January - as 150,000 Russian troops marched on the border with Ukraine - Jakob Dalhoff and his management team had begun discussing and formulating a detailed crisis plan for the Danish IT company in Lviv.
Red alarm level
The crisis plan operates with three escalating levels of preparedness: a green, an intensified yellow threat scenario and a red crisis level that entered into force in the very second the first Russian military operations took off on Ukrainian soil.
The red alert level at MatchOffice means that a large part of the company's daily activities is handled outside Ukraine and that safety among the remaining employees in Lviv is a top priority in all respects.
At the MatchOffice office in Lviv, employees began preparing for the crisis scenario
in mid-January emerging with the massive Russian military marches at the border.
""Deep down, I didn´t really believe that the situation would end up getting this far. But the outbreak of war suddenly sent us and everyone else in Ukraine into a state of emergency.
As the very first, we moved some of our most talented IT people to Poland, where they make sure to keep our systems up to date. Other core tasks are now handled by our Copenhagen office," Jakob Dalhoff says.
The cultural and university city of Lviv in western Ukraine, 65 km from the Polish border, escaped severe involvement on the first days of the invasion. The Russian missiles hit an airport 130 km southeast of the city.
Apart from a number of missile attacks, mainly outside the city centre, Lviv until now has been spared deadly bombings. Instead, the city has become Ukraine's transit hub, especially for women and children fleeing to the West.
During the first months of the war, Lviv has escaped the worst Russian bombings,
but air alarms many times have sent the inhabitants to shelters and basements -
as this MatchOffice employee and his child - up to several times a day.
"In the first weeks of the war, we experienced up to three or four air alarms a day, but we can´t complain compared to the terrible missile bombings in the southern and eastern areas as well as on the outskirts of Kyiv," Jakob Dalhoff says.
The Russian invasion abruptly extended the two-year corona lockdown, which has been mandatory for MatchOffice and all other office companies in Ukraine, but which was on the verge of being lifted.
During the first months of the war, the 40 Ukrainian employees of the Danish-owned international commercial rental portal thus worked from home to the extent that they were practically and mentally capable of.
Jakob Dalhoff has guaranteed all his employees their monthly salary paid in one way or another - even if the Ukrainian digital banking and payment systems should go down.
In his current Red Alert crisis plan, the MatchOffice CEO anticipates scenarios in which the office's internet connections are cut and, at least for a time, disappear. The plan, therefore, operates with various forms of offline work.
"We daily update our safety list, which shows where each of my employees is staying - how they feel and manage through all the pictures of the terrible horrors around the clock," Jakob Dalhoff says.
One month into the Russian-Russian invasion of Ukraine, Jakob Dalhoff's daily safety list showed that more than half of his MatchOffice employees were still in Lviv and the surrounding area, several in other Ukrainian cities and regions, one in Kyiv, while eight of it the company's employees worked from abroad.
"It is so significant in these difficult times that we support and stay close to each other. Here in Lviv, we feel safe for the time being, maintaining a reasonable mood and, above all, exemplary high morale."
All 40 Ukrainian MatchOffice employees have their Danish director's words that he
will help them and their loved ones to Denmark at the moment they might wish.
All 40 MatchOffice employees have their Danish director's words that he is ready to help them and their closest relatives to Denmark at the moment that they may wish it.
"So far, most of them express that they prefer to stay in their surroundings close to their family and loved ones. But still, the situation can change quickly - I fear, but certainly do not hope that it will ...," Jakob Dalhoff adds. ●
Facebook.com: MatchOffice Ukraine
Theworld.org: The Ukrainian city of Lviv is a sanctuary
Kyivindependent.com: The Kyiv Independent - News from Ukraine
Washingtonpost.com: An open-ended war forces one Ukrainian city to reinvent itself