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Vasylchuk, founder and CEO of Ukrainian crypto company Everstake, now sees Zelenskyy as the leader who “fights and protects his country”. And Vasylchuk is doing his part for resistance from abroad, in part by starting a DAO called Aid for Ukraine to funnel crypto donations to his country.

He had just arrived in the United States with his family to attend flight school in Florida when Russia invaded Ukraine. It was a difficult time for all of them. His parents and most of his employees bore the brunt of what quickly turned into a brutal offensive.

“I was just emotionally drained,” he said. To “stop feeling worthless and helpless,” Vasylchuk joined other Ukrainians in setting up a crypto donation campaign with FTX and Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation. The campaign has already raised over $60 million in crypto donations.

In an interview with Protocol, Vasylchuk discussed how the war has affected his family and colleagues, the crypto relief effort, and the future of crypto in his native country.

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

How did you learn that the war had started?

I will probably never forget that day. It was dark, and my wife woke up and said, “It’s started. My brain was like, “This is probably a nightmare.” I just fell asleep and didn’t pay attention. It was hard to even imagine that would happen. But then I woke up and opened my phone. I saw thousands of posts, and I thought, “What’s going on?”

I was just shocked. My parents are still in Ukraine. Many of my friends and employees are still there. I couldn’t believe it. It was just a shock. I was emotionally drained. I didn’t feel anything.

Then, after a day or two, I tried to pull myself together and said, “It’s not an option to sit and do nothing. It won’t help anyone. So I started doing something.

You had just arrived in the United States when Russia invaded.

Yeah, I came from Ukraine just two days before. I intended to [go] at flight school here in Florida. Fortunately, I took my children. My plan was, while I was going to school, that my family could spend time on the shore instead of the fog and the rain. It’s something that saved my family from missiles and guns.

You still have a team in Ukraine.

We are nearly a hundred. Many of them are working remotely due to COVID.

I understand that some of them joined the resistance.

Currently, the feeling of probably 99% of all Ukrainians, it does not matter where they are, they are trying to resist. Everyone works. I don’t know anyone in Ukraine who just sits around and watches what happens.

Can you share any conversations you’ve had with team members who have joined the fight?

Some have military experience. The conversation is simple. We have to protect our home.

How did you create Aid for Ukraine?

I went to the guys from the Department of Digital Information and said, ‘We have to find a way to make sure the money will be spent and accepted in the right way. The DAO was the only way. People were dying. We had to act now. It was the quickest, most proven and effective way to show the outside world that this is a group of people who have this partnership.

How long did it take you to set it up?

It took two hours.

How is this different from the Kuna Exchange initiative led by Michael Chobanian?

I worked with Michael Chobanian on the crypto scene in Ukraine. All of these people who are currently trying to help have known each other for years.

We have different blockchain groups in Ukraine. They started doing their own initiatives independently.

I started seeing complaints from the tech community: “Hey guys, what’s going on?” Then we connected with the Ministry of Digital Information. We had to unite all this under the aegis of the ministry, because we have to speak officially to the people.

So you also accept NFTs?

We cannot refuse people who wish to donate any type of asset. NFTs are just another type of asset that could be useful in protecting our home country.

Do you have information on the use of the funds?

There are two different accounts. An account is humanitarian. Another account belongs to the Ministry of Defense. I see the results. I see that our country beats the second largest [military] in the world. So I’m sure they know what to do.

How is your family in Ukraine?

My parents are still in Ukraine. They don’t want to leave. I tried to convince them. But they don’t want to. I am happy to be here with my family.

I assume you have many Russian friends and colleagues. What were some of the conversations you had with them? What has it been like for you?

For me personally, there are two types of Russians. One of them just uses the television instead of the brain. Others use their brains and don’t do TV. I am surprised that Russia can build such an effective propaganda machine.

For the people who are in the grip of propaganda, I don’t even speak [to them]. It’s a waste of time. You cannot convince them.

How do you see Putin? How has this vision evolved over time?

I never liked Putin. But before, I didn’t care. Right now, the majority of people hate him. I can assure you of that. 99% personally hate it.

Do you have any thoughts on Zelenskyy?

I voted against him.

Wait, did you vote against him?

First I voted against him. I was depressed to know that this guy who made movies became president. It was like that funny movie. I was like, “What? How did you use your brain?” I was disappointed.

Have you watched his show “Servant of the People”?

Yeah, that was funny. Really, it was funny. And that’s why they voted for him. These emotions were used to put him in this position. I was super angry and I was super disappointed [with] the way Ukrainians thought.

How do you see Zelenskyy now?

Right now I see the guy who has no political experience, has no experience playing political games, he does what he can. He fights and protects his country. He plays a very important role.

I believe that if we had another politician who has already had this experience of shady political games, we would probably lose or I don’t know what will happen.

So right now, you’re happy that Zelenskyy is in charge.

Yes, I am proud that we currently have a president who is not afraid to go into battle with the second largest army in the world.

One thing I really like, after all the community effort raised over $50 million in crypto, he took it seriously and the next day he signed the law that currently makes crypto legal in Ukraine.

This is another reason why I want to come back as soon as possible. You will be amazed at what we can build [with crypto].

What has been the low point for you so far in this conflict?

I can’t understand people killing old and young. They kill old people and they kill children. I could not understand. If you see it, you start to hate it because… the people bombing birthing hospitals, they’re animals. People who use guns against people who can’t leave are animals. You should understand, there’s a lot of hate.

What are your personal projects?

My personal plan is to return home as soon as it is safe.



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