A university president in Ukraine turns to social media

When the president of the Kyiv School of Economics started posting photos of his daily life on social media in November, it was a gut reaction. A day earlier, Russian airstrikes had hit Ukraine’s power grid and plunged the capital into darkness.

“I didn’t have a plan. I realized that we had no heating and water for a while, and somehow I felt that it would be interesting for the world to know how people are trying to get through the war,” said Tymofiy Mylovanov.

His tweets have resonated with readers around the world. Mylovanov has amassed more than 39,000 followers and has become a sought-after commentator for Western news outlets, explaining the toll of the war in hard numbers and, more importantly according to him, providing a first-hand account of daily life on the ground.

When times higher education spoke to Mylovanov, he had just finished an interview with Al Jazeera and had an upcoming air date with CNN.

Mylovanov, former Minister of Economic Development of Ukraine under the Honcharuk government and adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, knows the value of good press very well. But he insisted his decision to share his experience wasn’t an orchestrated PR mission.

“I’m fighting my own battle to keep the world connected to Ukraine,” he said. “I wanted people to feel that we are human. It’s easier for people to connect with us when they see us in our daily lives.”

His tweets, made up of observations of everyday and university life, are both simple and profound.

On the second day of the blackout in Kyiv, he released a video of students doing their work in a dugout and queuing at the university cafe.

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“But the students are here and classes are in full swing (8:30 a.m.). So we have to have our fancy coffee at our coffee shop, which actually works,” he wrote.

In another tweet, he poked fun at Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while exposing the Kremlin’s barbarism.

“Lavrov is shocked by unisex bathrooms and calls them inhuman. I am proud to announce that all bathrooms in Kyiv School of Economics are unisex… What is that blue water tank in our bathroom? This is water to flush the toilet [when] Lavrov’s ‘humane’ country is bombing us and our water pumping system has stopped working.”

As an economist, Mylovanov is aware of the connection between people emotionally connected to the conflict and the financial support given to Ukraine. His posts are often linked to a call for donations. You have already had a significant impact.

Recently, his followers donated £37,000 ($44,600) to buy gifts for orphans and refugee children in Ukraine after he posted videos of a student-led CFE fundraiser, noting that the only thing that could increase in the way, a lack of funds is .

Crucial to KSE, Mylovanov’s efforts have secured the university a mobile generator, a massive yellow box that powers the entire building if the power goes out, something that’s becoming increasingly important as Russia shut down Ukraine’s energy infrastructure takes sight. Next, the university plans to drill a well so it can have running water even if the mains are down.

While circumstances in Ukraine are now undeniably “much more difficult” than before the war, Mylovanov said the atmosphere at the university and beyond is better than ever.

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“Yesterday morning there was a snowstorm and traffic jams for three hours, but the evening was actually cleaned up. I think things are working better than before the war…like everyone is a Navy SEAL,” he said.

Meanwhile, at KSE, faculty’s dedication to the curriculum is “amazing,” and among students, motivation is “by the charts,” with about 70 percent of students attending classes in person, a rare achievement in the country where the majority of education continues in online form.

Still, he admitted there are certain less savory things he leaves out of his media appearances. “Are we having a fight? Yes. Is my roof leaking in two places? Yes.”

Not all of KSE’s attempts to help the local community have been successful. When he offered a generator to a school in another city, an official there solicited bribes for the installation, an unfortunate reminder that, however virtuous its war effort, Ukraine is not exempt from its pre-war corruption problem.

Still, Mylovanov said that such issues are insignificant in the scheme of things.

“There are these bad apples, and if war doesn’t fix them, I don’t know what can,” he joked.

He has more serious concerns these days, especially how the Ukrainians will get through a bitter winter. With Russian bombing raids leaving millions without heating or running water, daily life has become unpredictable and sometimes tiring. War has required KSE colleagues to put in many more hours, and Mylovanov worries about staff retention amid burnout.

“It bothers her,” he says.

Nonetheless, his deep pride in the institution comes through, particularly his confidence in his students, who are ‘quite different’ from previous cohorts.

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“The people who go to school now will be great generations of leaders,” he said. “You get things done.”