Working in a warzone: LSP manager Maria Malykhina shares her story

When the war in Ukraine started last week, my thoughts turned to localization colleagues and friends on the ground there, the dangers they are facing and the fear they must be living in. Like so many, I felt helpless and even enraged. I reached out to Ukrainian LocLunch ambassador and Localization Production Manager Maria Malykhina to see how she was doing and how I could help. 

Can you give us an idea of what life working as a translator in Ukraine is like?

When everything started, we at Technolex were determined to continue the work by all means. People managed projects and translated until the air-raid warnings interrupted the process, then returned from shelters and resumed their work.

Some even managed to work in shelters and basements, that are, unfortunately, far from being comfortable and prepared for use by people. In these shelters and down at the metro stations, people gathered to spend an hour between two sirens, or even a night, with their children, cats, and dogs.

Today, at the end of day six, we are starting to face a severe shortage of resources, as many of our linguists remain in locations that are badly affected by artillery attacks. We are also struggling to put in eight hours because of the many interruptions.

Even if your city is not badly damaged and you are brave enough to get out of your home or shelter, any walk out to a food shop or pharmacy during the day may turn into a three-hour journey with waiting in line outside in the cold weather and desperately looking for the necessary things. Shops are mostly closed, and those that are not close early due to the curfew. All this leaves little time to concentrate on work.

Nevertheless, linguists from our pool keep accepting and delivering jobs as accurately as possible. Freelance translators and interpreters have a lot of urgent work in form of translation for volunteer communities and their European and American clients, as well as RSI and live interpreting for foreign journalists, politics, and news channels.

We are receiving many emails of support from our customers and partners, and quite a few new translation requests. What we see is a dramatic increase in demand for Russian and Ukrainian languages from international LSPs who have switched their workflows west of Russia but also could not reach their regular Ukrainian translators.

Are localization firms able to continue to work?

We keep in touch with the local LSPs, and the situation is the same for them: It is important to respond to urgent requests and volunteer, as localization is now of great importance for humanitarian and military purposes. However, many offices are forced to close and getting out in the streets is dangerous. Employees are working from home. For now, the internet seems to be working although it could be cut off at any time. Many colleagues have joined the Territorial Defense forces as volunteers. The air raids and explosions have become extremely frequent, homes get ruined, everyone is in deadly danger. 

What message do you have for fellow language industry peers in the Ukraine?

Dear colleagues, God bless those who joined the army or the territorial defense forces. God help those who had to flee their cities. And the rest of us staying at home need to take care of ourselves. Despite the danger of physical damage, we are all in danger of mental breakdown. Therefore, unless you woke up in total ruins today, it is vital to try sticking to the daily routine, with ordinary actions and the necessary work tasks, to keep ourselves alive. Although we do receive some good news from our army heroes and our friends abroad, endless scrolling of the newsfeed, watching TV or YouTube videos, and following countless Telegram channels can become very toxic, depressing and dispiriting. Please stay strong, attentive and keep fighting in this hybrid war with its insane methods, wherever you are.

Do you have a message for fellow language industry peers in Russia?

The internet is already flooded with messages from the outraged Ukrainians and the indignant Russians. You believe the sanctions, isolation, and ostracism on the common Russian people are unfair. We believe that murdering innocent Ukrainian people and children and destroying our hometowns is unfair. Yes, we do think you should speak up, get out on the streets, and fight for peace against the evil. Yes, we do realize how dangerous it is for you. Yes, we know that not all of you support this invasion, and many of you haven’t been fooled by the propaganda. But no, this doesn’t make us any less angry, and we won’t stop calling you to action. Here in Ukraine, people make Molotov cocktails at home to stop the Russian tanks and protect their families. And they use them, too. Please do everything possible to help stop the evil at your home. Don’t keep your eyes and ears closed to deny the facts.

What would you like to say to MLVs or direct localization clients outside of Ukraine? 

Ukrainian localization is directly affected by the escalating conflict, and the situation is getting more and more acute every hour. As a nation, we badly need decisive actions and help from your governments. As your vendors, we need patience and understanding. The end customers should be made aware of the true circumstances if they aren’t yet. It is not unlike what happened during the global semiconductor chip shortage. At some point, it became impossible to get any. Please be prepared for the same situation with Ukrainian translations. Let’s hope and pray it won’t last too long.

How can we best help our colleagues in Ukraine? 

The support from you, our dear colleagues from all over the world, has been incredible. From warm personal messages and publications on social media to donating to our army and humanitarian organizations, you have been very active, sincere, and committed. We appreciate this greatly. Please don’t stop the anti-war protests in your cities. Please don’t get used to this state of crisis. Don’t become indifferent to the outcome of this perfidious crime against our country.

What do you think we do not understand about the current situation in Ukraine?

We need you to keep raising awareness of the true horrors of the war that came to our homes. About the prohibited weapons in our streets, bombing of civilian areas, killing common people and children. Please tell the world about the young Russian boys sent to Ukraine under false pretenses, to die and be captured. We need you to know that Ukrainian people didn’t ask for a “liberation,” not now and not in 2014.

A Global LocLunch Day was planned for Friday. Should we continue with LocLunch Kyiv in support or cancel out of respect?

Today the LocFromHome committee decided to cancel, and many LocLunch ambassadors followed suit in support. It is my intention to continue the online LocLunch Kyiv no matter what. I hope that linguists from all over Ukraine can spare a minute in this hard time and get online to support each other. 

It is not how everything was supposed to be. And it is not what we all deserve. Everybody is welcome to join Kyiv LocLunch this Friday. And let’s hope the nightmare will end soon.

Stefan Huyghe
Stefan Huyghe is Vice President of Localization at Communicaid Inc. where he focuses on running high-level operations, workflow optimization, database development, social selling and community building. He has over 20 years of experience working in the language industry is fluent in Dutch, French, German, and English.


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