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Yale SOM Alumni Respond to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine last month and the ongoing violence there have affected the entire SOM community in different ways, and thousands have responded. Here are the stories of three alumni.

Leo Khayet

Leo Khayet ’10

From his home in Overland Park, Kansas, Leo Khayet needed no prompting to dive immediately into helping Ukrainians. He was born in Gomel, Belarus, less than half an hour from the border with Ukraine. As a child, Leo and his family fled Belarus as refugees and relied on the kindness of others through their resettlement in America. You can hear the emotion in his voice when he speaks about that experience, and it drives him on his present mission.

Through Chabad, an international Jewish organization, Leo connected with local leaders in Odessa, a strategic port city in southern Ukraine. He quickly established that the local Chabad chapter in Odessa was providing logistical support to move busloads of Odessans—regardless of religious affiliation—out of harm’s way into nearby Moldova. If they could get more funds, they could charter more buses.

Leo’s first call to a Kansas City friend netted a $50,000 pledge and a promise to recruit others in the business community. Since that first call, a network rapidly emerged along ruthlessly efficient lines: Leo and others raise money and send it to an account at a New York bank. Organizers in Odessa access the money to charter buses, and desperate Odessans bring their belongings to the departure point for the convoy to safety. Up to 20 buses a day are now leaving Odessa as the Russian forces threaten the city from both land and sea. Leo says they are “laser-focused” on this one mission, with a goal to evacuate 10,000 Odessans before it’s too late. More than 2,000 have made it so far.

Leo’s work is having a network effect. Students from nearby universities in Kansas with family in Odessa have contacted Leo not only to request spots for their relatives on the Chabad buses, but to assist in evacuations from other locations in Ukraine. What’s more, “business leaders in other cities have found out about what we’re doing and are looking to help Odessa.” 

To see a photo of the buses in Odessa, click here. To see a video of a convoy leaving the city, click here.

Jenny Malseed

Jenny Malseed ’05

As Vice President of Strategy & Talent at GlobalGiving, Jenny Malseed is deeply involved in executing the organization’s mission and cultivating the talent to fulfill that mission. GlobalGiving, founded in 2002, believes deeply in community-led change. They are a model of “lean philanthropy,” building long-term relationships with trusted local organizations around the world and then providing resources with fewer bureaucratic requirements than other donors.

That makes GlobalGiving ideally suited to the Ukraine crisis. With dozens of local organizations already in place in Ukraine and surrounding countries long before the war, money sent to GlobalGiving gets to the people who need it quickly and efficiently. As of mid-March, GlobalGiving is already more than two-thirds of the way to meeting its $17 million Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund goal and is already disbursing money to its partners.

You could say it’s just Jenny’s job to support Ukrainian relief, but it’s more than that for her. “My husband is half Ukrainian and my mother-in-law was born there in 1943,” Jenny says. “Her family left western Ukraine, near Lviv, when she was two years old and they lived in refugee camps for four years. She doesn’t remember her life in Ukraine, but she deeply values artifacts from that time, including a hand-colored map that her father drew to denote the route they took to escape to Poland.”

To see a copy of this map, click here.

will brackenheimer family

Will Brackenheimer ’08

The images of devastation and destruction in Kyiv mean more to Will Brackenheimer than they do most Americans. Will was born and raised in Kyiv, graduating from high school there before coming to the U.S. for college, SOM, and his career and life since then.

“On the day of the invasion I was in a state of shock,” Will says. A longtime donor to charity, Will knew he needed to respond to this crisis in much more profound ways.  He dashed off letters to elected officials in the first days of the war, and then turned his energy to relief work.  Before long, he learned about Meest, a shipping and logistics company that has long specialized in getting goods to and from Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Meest was accepting donations at its dropoff locations in the U.S., so Will and his family filled their SUV with medical supplies and took them to Meest, where they saw “a long line of cars and trucks making donations.”

Will hit the phones and started to call all his friends and contacts, first to make donations of goods like he did, and then to make donations of money.  Meest, although a for-profit company, can’t afford to ship planeloads of material to Eastern Europe, and needs funds to continue its airlift.

“It’s humbling to be part of this effort because you see how people are pitching in however they can,” Will says. “I’m extremely grateful for all the non-Ukrainians who are helping. That sort of kindness is something that I’m used to in the US, but it’s incredible to see it in action on such a large scale—doubly so when it’s personal to me. I get very emotional about it.”

SOM prides itself in preparing leaders for business and society.  Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the latter dimension of that training has come into sharper focus. It is encouraging to see the way these (and so many other) SOM alumni have brought their entrepreneurial zeal to these lifesaving projects.