When the president of the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) began posting photos of his daily life to social media in November, it was a gut reaction. A day earlier, Russian air strikes had hit Ukraine’s power grid, plunging the city into darkness. “I didn’t have a plan — I realised we had no heating and no water for a while, and somehow I felt it would be interesting for the world to know how people are trying to get through the war,” recalls Tymofiy Mylovanov.
The professor’s tweets have resonated with readers around the world. Mylovanov has accumulated more than 39,000 followers and has become an in-demand commentator for Western news outlets, explaining the war’s toll in hard numbers and — even more importantly, he believes — providing a firsthand account of everyday life on the ground.
Previously Ukraine’s minister of economic development under the Honcharuk government and an adviser to its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prof. Mylovanov knows the value of good press. But he insists that his decision to share his experiences is not an orchestrated PR mission. “I’m fighting my own battle, for the world to stay connected to Ukraine. I want people to feel that we’re human. It’s easier for people to connect with us when they see us in our daily lives,” he says.
Observations on the everyday minutiae and life at a university, his tweets are simple and profound. On the second day of the Kyiv blackout, he posted a video of students doing their work from a shelter and queueing up at the university cafe. “But students are here, and classes are at full speed (8.30 a.m). Therefore we must have our fancy coffee at our cafe, which indeed is working,” he wrote.
In another tweet, he poked fun at Russia’s foreign affairs minister Sergei Lavrov, simultaneously exposing the Kremlin’s barbarity. “Lavrov is shocked by unisex bathrooms and calls them inhumane. I am proud to report that all bathrooms at the Kyiv School of Economics are unisex… What’s that blue water tank in our bathroom? That’s water to flush toilets (when) Lavrov’s ‘humane’ country bombs us and our water pump system stops working.”
An economist, Prof. Mylovanov is keenly aware of the link between people connecting emotionally with the conflict and supporting Ukraine financially. His posts often come with an appeal for donations. Already, they’ve had a sizeable impact.
Recently, his followers donated £37,000 (Rs.37 lakh) to buy gifts for orphaned and refugee children in Ukraine after he posted videos of a KSE student-led fundraiser, noting that the only thing standing in the way of upscaling it was a lack of funding.
These days, he has more serious concerns — chiefly, how Ukrainians will make it through a bitter winter. With Russian bombings leaving millions without heat or running water, daily life has become unpredictable and exhausting. Because of the war, KSE colleagues have had to put in many more hours, and Prof. Mylovanov worries about staff retention amid burnout. “It takes a toll on them,” he says. Still, his deep pride in the institution comes through, especially faith in his students, who are “very different” from previous cohorts. “The people who go through school right now are going to be great generations of leaders. They get things done,” he says.