Lizards. The war

Here are some stories from Mariupol, Mykolaiv, Irpin, Kyiv region, and Kyiv itself, told by the Lizards, whose February 24 began there.

About ones who didn't believe russians could start this full-scale war and others who felt that something horrible was about to happen.

About how our colleague from Mariupol, a mother of two, hid her sons under blankets while taking them out of the occupied city by car. So that they don't see dozens of mutilated corpses of civilians right in the middle of the streets. And the burned areas that were once their schools and kindergartens, parks and shopping centers. Their beautiful seaside town. Before the russian invaders.

About how our other colleague from Irpin, which is a few kilometers from Gostomel, that was being attacked by the russian invaders, got out of the methodically shelled town. She didn't have a car to leave right away, and the friends who had one left without her. She did not catch the last minibus to leave on her own, because the bridge on the way, which was still possible to evacuate by, was blown up very soon.

About how to live on, when everything around is collapsing – your life, reasons to live on, your house, your business...

And how we all did manage to live on.

GM Lizard Soft Vasyl Grygoriev, «We All Have the Future»

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«At the beginning of 2022, when I looked at our ambitious plans and numbers, a thought flashed through my mind: what could destroy our plans this time...? It was a big war.»


«Everything we need for remote work – not only laptops, but also seals, documents, electronic signatures flash drives – we distributed among ourselves, clarified who has what, and decided that we'll relocate to the same place. We took it with us every evening. And brought back to the office every morning. Therefore, on February 24, we no longer went to the office: we were fully prepared for evacuation.»


«Even when I saw this news on "Ukrainian Pravda" (ed.: online news resource) under the heading "Putin declared war on Ukraine", I did not react accordingly. Because I saw the same headline in 2014.»


«We talked about duplicating functions in case someone stops communicating – yes, we prepared for human losses as well.»


«For the first time in my life, I deeply regretted not learning how to use a weapon. Because then I was sure that the only way I could help these people, help Ukraine, was to take up arms and go to the front line.»

Part II
The first statement from the Company's management on the day of the large-scale invasion says «Keep a cool head! » and gives recommendations on alarm suitcases. Also, the Company informed of additional days off for those who decided to evacuate. February 24, 2022, at 8:06 am

Second week. Reality to admit

I started making up Plan B in the second week of the war when I began to perceive reality. And when I realized that this war is for a long time.

At the time, I thought «for a long time» meant a few months. I didn't want to believe that the war could last until the end of the year.

"Together with the directors, we started preparing the Company for a protracted state of war. The most important question for us then was the state of our Clients."

The first week of the war was complete chaos. From the second week, we could see some specifics already: we have updated our key Clients' statuses. We made sure they continued to work, and they had funds at that time. That we keep on working on our projects as they are important for our Customers, even though the priorities have been revised since the beginning of the war.

"Many Clients got in touch in the first days of the war to talk about delaying payments. The number of such Clients was unclear at the time, and it was our second task to find out."

There were many questions regarding further cooperation with Microsoft. After all, the declaration of martial law and the restrictions that were introduced on the interbank foreign exchange market a day later made it transactionally impossible for us to fulfill our obligations to Microsoft.

We had to figure out how to deal with it.

With Microsoft Ukraine CEO, Nadia Vasylyeva. At the event of awarding of the Best partners of Microsoft Ukraine, February 2015

A week or two passed before the first statement on this matter: the vendor said that the Partners may not pay the bills for some time.

"This information spread through the market, and many of the Clients took it as a signal that they could not pay. This caused further difficulties in the first month of our work under these conditions."


We had to deal with all these challenges.

The result of the work of the second-third week of the war was our updated cash flow, a table with our projected income, with updated commitments from our Clients, with significantly optimized expenses.

And this table calmed us down a little.

Because after talking with all the Clients, realizing that our project teams were mostly relocated and safe; that we are starting to focus and work, there was a feeling that the Company does keep on working.

"We all have a future, certain prospects. And if we fulfill our obligations to our Customers, we'd get through the wartime without much trouble for the Company. This became clear in the second or third week of the war."

Of course, Customers have become pickier. After all, the value of money has become higher. But none of the Clients refused to pay if we fulfilled our obligations.

«If we had a time machine…»

If any decisions were wrong, those were the ones we made before the invasion.

Our Company is quite democratic, and we try to listen to and consider everyone's opinion. So we immediately declared that the issue of relocation is an individual decision of each Lizard. If we had a time machine, I'd have been much more insistent on relocating employees, and we'd have arranged housing ahead of time so we wouldn't end up in that situation with the realtors.

"After the invasion, I think everything was done right. First of all, we saved every Lizard, their lives, their families, and their jobs. That was the most important thing to us."

We remember how many Lizards had problems that were beyond the standard workflow. And we involved all the tools that seemed appropriate to us at the time to help our colleagues get emotionally stable.

«We involved all the tools that seemed appropriate to us at the time to help our colleagues get emotionally stable.» Screenshot of communications in the «Helping Lizards» group, where management informed that there will be regular online meetings with the psychologist to help Lizards stabilize emotionally. February 28, 2022

This was psychological support (ed.: the Ñompany arranged several group sessions with the Israeli psychologist).

Also, rapidly activated communications on behalf of the Company. After all, this general sense of confusion – that the world we knew is ruined and nothing will ever be the same again – I heard from almost every member of the Team.

"That's why the entire management, HR, and communications teams put a lot of effort into instilling confidence in our employees about the future and balancing their moods."
The first message that initiated regular crisis communications of the Company's Management with the Lizards. Here communications manager gives Lizards the official information resources links to avoid fakes.
February 24, 2022, 11:04 am

It may sound cynical, but I believe that the best way to survive a stressful situation is to immerse yourself in work.

"Because now you're in a situation where everything in your life is broken, you're in a new reality. And the only thing that hasn't changed in this new world is the job you have."

As a team, we tried to create this island of stability in the sea of chaos around us. In my opinion, this approach was the most correct.

Craft sticker pack «Lizard Family is...» for Microsoft Teams, May 2022
Craft sticker pack «Lizard Family is...» for Microsoft Teams, May 2022

I still thank the Universe for Lera (ed.: the colleague who ended up in besieged Mariupol with two children and was able to escape only a few weeks later). We all were extremely worried about her. Our operational headquarter was waiting for news from her more than ever. And the surge of emotions that we felt when we found out that Lera had left Mariupol is even difficult for me to describe.

It was the first feeling of happiness since the beginning of the war. A rather strange and unusual feeling, which I had already forgotten at that moment.

"This is the Company's greatest achievement. And this direction of effort was the most correct."
The first photo of Lera «at large». The road to Zaporizhzhia after escaping from the besieged Mariupol. March 2022

The values haven’t changed
With colleagues at the New Year Party, 2019
"I get quite used to the people I work with. And I really appreciate the contribution of each Lizard to our business."

And even though I can do many things on my own, I understand that as a team we can always achieve more than any of us alone. Including me.

That is why I have always valued the Team I work with the most. And it hasn't changed.

Lizard is not a server, not bank accounts, not signed contracts. Lizard is above all a Team. We managed to save it.

"I think because we had such values, focused first of all on the keeping of the Lizard Team and each individual Lizard."

What learned during the months of the big war

To work without a mouse (ed.: laughs).

I was an extremely focused person: I thought everything through, packed everything I might need in my «alarm suitcase», including the wireless mouse I picked up from the office every day.

But I forgot the adapter for it at the office (ed.: laughs)!

After our Victory

I have one somewhat expensive bottle of whiskey at home, which I planned to open on some special occasion.

In 2021, I wanted to buy a house near Kyiv (luckily, I didn't) and I was thinking of opening this bottle to celebrate this event. And so, during these months of the war, I learned an important lesson: you have to live right now. And to open a bottle of expensive whiskey when you'd like. Without postponing for some special time. Which may not happen.

"So the first thing I'm going to do is open that damn whiskey! Now it's a symbol to me of what I did wrong before the war."

The second decision is about the Company: although we're very comfortable working in the Ukrainian market, our long-term perspective is not here. Therefore, when the border crossing restrictions are lifted, I'll register our European office, as we planned before the war.

"Our expansion into the European market will have to be significantly accelerated. After all, the long-term prospects of the Ukrainian market are still vague."
Monaco, one of the most difficult curves of F1 track, 2019
After the F1 Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, 2014

Message to myself on February 24-25

I'd send myself a few messages.

The first is that each person has his own strengths and weaknesses. And if you want to be effective, you need to be where you use your strengths to the maximum.

"The defense of the country is not about the only front line. It is much more people supporting the economy at this time. These people earn money, donate to the Armed Forces, volunteer, help friends, buy equipment. But it would be impossible if all these people went to the front line".

My task was to provide the entire Lizard family with a stable income during martial law, to save the Company, to walk this path with dignity, to pay taxes, and to work as efficiently as possible on the economic front line. To support Ukraine in this way.

I scolded myself for a long time for not being able to defend the country with weapons. But then I realized that I was doing it in vain.

At the office, Kyiv, 2019
"Because I defend Ukraine on another front line."

The second message: don't try to structure the chaos.

This period of confusion and chaos was quite difficult for me, as a person who wants everything to be planned.

I tried to somehow structure all the events around. And again I scolded myself for not being able to do it well.

"Then I concluded that it could not be otherwise. Because chaos was all around."

So the best I could do, and eventually did, was switch into response mode.

"I didn't plan, but responded to challenges that arose and worked through them."

And then, in the second or third week, it was already possible to plan something.

Message to the Lizards
"First of all, don't put off life for tomorrow – neither good whiskey, nor random communication with dear people – anything that can make you happy here and now."

Appreciate what you have now. We all began to appreciate it only with the beginning of the full-scaled war, unfortunately.

"The second thing is to realize that everything is in our hands."

Thanks to the efforts of the entire Team, we successfully overcame the period of greatest chaos. We have regained control over business processes and relationships with Clients. We continue work on projects, which means that the Company will be able to stably fulfill its financial obligations, pay taxes and help the Armed Forces. If we fulfill our obligations to the Clients in a high-quality and timely manner.

With colleagues at the New Year Party, 2019
With colleague at The Lizard Summer Party, 2019

Let's always remember this: we can, we will get through this difficult period – and it is difficult not only for us but also for our Customers, who reviewed the value of their money and their priorities – if we work qualitatively, quickly, and cohesively.

"This is not only the task of Lizard Soft, it is the specific task of each of us. Without exception. And mine, too."

So let's shut down news websites until the evening.
Let's hug the one who is near us now.
Let's take a deep breath.

And go to Victory!

With the Lizard Family at the New Year's corporate party, 2019

In Part I