Economist wins social media war over Ukraine

When the president of the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) 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 city into darkness.

“I didn’t have a plan – I realized we hadn’t had heat or water for a while, and somehow I felt it would be interesting for the world to see how people are trying to get through the war.” , said Tymofiy Mylovanov.

His tweets have resonated with readers around the world. Professor 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 in his opinion, providing a first-hand account of daily life on the ground.

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

Professor 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.

“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 fun on Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while exposing the barbarity of the Kremlin.

“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.”

Professor Mylovanov, an economist, is acutely 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 to buy gifts for orphans and refugee children in Ukraine after he posted videos a fundraiser led by CFE students and found that the only thing standing in the way of expansion was a lack of funding.

Crucial to the KSE, Professor Mylovanov’s efforts secured the university a mobile generator, a massive yellow box that powers the entire building when the power goes out – something that’s becoming increasingly important as Russia improves the energy infrastructure of the targets Ukraine. 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, Professor Mylovanov said the atmosphere – at the university and beyond – is better than ever.

“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 motivation among students has increased “through the charts,” with about 70 percent of students attending classes in person — a rare achievement in the country where the Majority of the education that takes place continues in online form.

Still, he admitted there were certain less savory things he left 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, Professor Mylovanov said such problems are minor.

“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 – most notably how 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. Because of the war, KSE colleagues had to put in many more hours, and Professor Mylovanov worries about staff retention during 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.

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

[email protected]