South African internet pioneer and tech entrepreneur Ronnie Apteker lives (usually) in Ukraine with his wife and baby. In this piece from his blog (“I need to keep writing, it is helping me cope”), the co-founder of SA’s largest internet service provider shares something of his former life, complete with pics of “The Nest” – his apartment in downtown Kyiv. – Alec Hogg
By Ronnie Apteker
Kyiv is one of the world’s best kept secrets. Everyone who comes there is amazed. And they can’t wait to come back. It is a beautiful city, made for walking and exploring. You could stroll around for two weeks, summer or winter, and still not see and experience everything. Yeah, it is not a small city.
Ukraine has many challenges is not a perfect place (it is currently a war zone), but it has charm and soul, and that makes up for any flaws. Ukraine suffers from corruption and parasite oligarchs, but they are working on this, and things are getting better, year on year. And yes, the roads need to be improved, and medical care needs to develop further, but it was all in motion, and there was a big light in the tunnel. Ukraine is hard working and it is innovative and inspired. Most people in Ukraine have difficult lives, and the average salary is around $500 a month. These are humble and modest people and they are kind and warm. And they have the best sense of humour you could ever experience. People joke a lot in Ukraine. In Kyiv life was always filled with smiles and laughter.
There are many booming industries in Ukraine. Real estate in Kyiv was going gangbusters, and the IT sector is a phenomenon. Ukraine is the tech hub of Europe. Agriculture is the country’s largest industry – Ukraine is one of the biggest food producers in the world, and is often referred to as the breadbasket of Europe. Creativity and design are an inspired affair in Ukraine’s capital. International movie shoots had become common, and news of movie stars spotted in Kyiv was frequent. Top musicians perform in Kyiv constantly, and in my view, Kyiv was called “The next Berlin” for a very good reason. Within the next 5 years it was going to become a global hot spot. If Ukraine is destroyed we all lose here. The world is always looking for something new and fresh. Kyiv had it all to give. If it is taken away from us, the world loses out big time.
I could write a small book on eating out and coffee culture in Kyiv. When you come visit one day you will all be in for a stunning surprise. I have eaten at some of the coolest places around the world and Kyiv kicks ass. Yes, the silly stereotypes are strong and so many people often would ask me “Do you eat a lot of bread and soup in Ukraine?” We did in winter, and it is on the next level. You could do a culinary tour of Kyiv and you would be licking your lips at every encounter. Italian, Indian, Georgian, French, Israeli, Thai, Chinese … you name it, Kyiv has it, and it is all off the charts good. You would be seriously blown away. And the gourmet burgers … oh man !
A month ago we were still in Ukraine, heading towards Krakow. Our apartment in Kyiv, which we call The Nest, is a magical place. It feels like we have not been there for a long long time. These past few weeks have been intense, to say the least. From The Nest it was an 18 minute walk to the city centre. In winter, when it snowed, it was about a 30 minute walk to a practice ski slope. You name the season, there is always so much to do in Kyiv. And it is photographer’s dream come true. I hope we get back there soon. I believe we will. I am feeling optimistic.
Here are a few pics of some parts of The Nest … I miss the magical views. Sunsets are spectacular.
- Stop pussyfooting: help Ukraine before it’s too late – Ronnie Apteker
- From the frontline: Ronnie Apteker – Ukraine is fighting for the whole world
- A frontline missive from sudden refugee Ronnie Apteker: “Slava Ukraini” (Glory to Ukraine)