Bitcoin allows the escape of Ukrainian refugees
You fall asleep one day and wake up the next day to find your country is under attack by a foreign power, bombs are falling from the sky in major cities targeting military and critical infrastructure and foreign troops are coming from all directions. It’s hard to understand the fear anyone would feel in such a situation, but that’s exactly what millions of Ukrainian citizens have been feeling for the past few days.
Since February 24, Ukraine’s central bank has suspended electronic cash transfers and ATMs have been overwhelmed. The borders were closed to all men of fighting age, who were ordered by the government to stay and fight the Russian soldiers. The government encouraged citizens to make molotov cocktails to help fight to defend the country. It’s a horrible situation, and it’s beyond words the damage such things do to people when they happen.
Bitcoin does not solve this, it will not end this situation. But what it can do is work as a tool to help people stay in control of their wealth to survive such a situation.
Protecting Wealth in Wartime
I was able to speak with a Ukrainian who was able to cross the Polish border (and I’m so grateful he took the time to talk to me and others given the seriousness of the situation he finds himself in) who was able to use Bitcoin for this very purpose.
For obvious reasons of confidentiality, he used the pseudonym “LDV” during the interview. He is the webmaster of Helios Fund. They take funds from investors and invest in bitcoin and altcoin mining operations, timing altcoin sales for bitcoin at optimal market points so profits can sustain the operation and be distributed to investors. Helios has been paying LDV in bitcoin since he started working for them about a year ago which has literally been the difference between his being able to get out of the country with enough money to survive while he finds out what what he’s going to do in the long run.
LDV went to the bank before attempting to cross the border to withdraw money — the problem was that he was not authorized to do so. Banks across the country had closed ATMs and were not allowing cash withdrawals. This obviously presents a major problem when trying to travel to a foreign country to escape a military invasion. How will you pay for food, rent, or necessities to live your life?
In his case, LDV was able to take some of the bitcoin he had saved from his salary and sell it to people he knew for cash to acquire around $600 of Polish złoty so he could get by. after crossing the Polish border. Bitcoin was literally the difference between being able to walk out of Ukraine with enough money to get by immediately, versus walking out with nothing, condemning yourself to a state of utter destitution. To paraphrase his own words as I was talking to him, “Without Bitcoin, I probably wouldn’t be here to talk to you properly.”
Bitcoin illuminates a very clear dividing line in drastic situations like what is happening in Ukraine right now: the interests of individuals versus the interest of the collective (i.e. the government over its citizens). Clearly, the reason for refusing to process bank transactions is all about continuity of government. It is not about what is in the best interest of individual citizens, but what is in the best interest of the government itself to be able to continue to operate and fund its operations and defensive efforts against the incursion. Russian.
Bitcoin is a way to opt out of having this choice made on your behalf. It is a way of making totally voluntary what you participate in economically. It may sound cold or ruthless, but it’s the reality. In a situation like the one happening in Ukraine, having your wealth in bitcoins leaves you entirely free to take your money and leave – to prioritize your own and your family’s safety over the “collective good”. of your country or your government – or to devote these resources to the defense of your country and your community as the government decides. (The above is not intended to reflect the opinion of LDV or how it chooses to use its funds, but only to describe potential bitcoin offerings in such a crisis.)
An exodus of refugees
LDV and his girlfriend packed their laptops, devices and everything needed to continue working remotely to maintain an income, got in their car and drove to the border with Poland. They crossed the border two hours before it closed for all men of fighting age (any delay that might have happened if LDV hadn’t had bitcoin, and stayed longer trying to figure out a way to extract fiat from his bank account, might have meant that they would never have gotten out of it).
How did LDV cross the border with its bitcoin? With a USB key and a sheet of paper.
He stored his backgrounds with a Tails OS setup on a USB flash drive and a saved word seed on a piece of paper. Is this a safe practice for large sums of money? No. Is this something your average Bitcoin user should do without taking the time to learn how Bitcoin works, or what they should and shouldn’t do with key material? No. But it allowed LDV to cross an international border during a foreign invasion of their country and cross that border with their wealth intact.
Thanks to bitcoin, LDV has a cash buffer budget that was acquired by informally selling bitcoin to carry it out in the immediate future of next week or so. Thanks to the Bitcoin ATM network that exists in the world, he has the opportunity to cash out more. Even though these ATMs come with onerous KYC requirements that he cannot meet, thanks to the growing prevalence of Bitcoin and the communities of people who use it, he has the potential opportunity to find and network with these people. to directly sell this bitcoin in person for cash in hand. Thanks to Bitcoin, he actually still has some wealth that he can use and support himself, even as a refugee from a war-torn country, instead of being entirely dependent on the charity of the people. Polish.
With Bitcoin, LDV was able to flee to a foreign country with the wealth he was able to save from his work, with multiple options to be able to convert it to local currency if needed, instead of fleeing with nothing but the clothes. on his back and relying entirely on the charity of the people around him when he arrived. That’s the power that Bitcoin offers, that’s its utility value in a situation where the world around you is literally collapsing.
Safe for now and fight back
LDV is currently located somewhere where he can rely on stable housing for at least a week or two, he has the fiat currency needed for food and basic needs, and he has savings in bitcoin that he can cash out in fiat if needed to manage additional daily expenses. He also has a job that will always bring him income, as Bitcoin exists to function as a means of payment that is undisturbed due to the chaos that is currently breaking out in his home country, which will allow him to cope with whatever the future holds. these turbulent times without having to depend entirely on the charity of strangers. None of this would be possible without Bitcoin.
Because of this ability to smuggle his money across the border with him, he is currently assisting a group of hackers he identifies as “Dmytro”, which he claims is responsible for the takedowns of Russia Today. and, previously, from the website of the Russian Ministry of Defense. . According to LDV, Russian media claimed that Ukraine had tried to invade Russia. Russian media sites have been targeted by Dmytro in order to prevent the spread of propaganda and false information.
When asked if other, more critical digital infrastructure was being considered for similar attacks, LDV said the focus would remain on news and media sites spreading inaccurate information about the current invasion. Ukraine. This may not seem like a hard-hitting action, but given the protests that are happening in Russia against the invasion despite the warnings and the harsh consequences for participating, and the general context of the enormous polarization of perception induced by the media over the past few years, it might have more impact than you first think.
All this is possible thanks to Bitcoin. LDV was able to get out of Ukraine with his savings, with a steady income that didn’t disappear because his bank account in Ukraine stopped working, with some autonomy and the ability to pay his own way in a foreign country after having had to flee his own with nothing but what he could carry, instead of relying entirely on the charity of strangers with no other option. Bitcoin made this possible. He was able to cross the border between Ukraine and Poland with a USB stick and a piece of paper and with that carry his wealth and savings along with the clothes on his back.
This is the power of Bitcoin: the power to withdraw without having to ask anyone’s permission, and in the case of LDV, the power to support and assist Ukraine in its defense against invasion of its country. originally by Russia – not because it had to, but because it chose to. That’s the power of Bitcoin, making it your choice, without having to ask anyone’s permission.
This is a guest post from Shinobi. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or bitcoin magazine.