‘I am constantly checking with home’ – Ukrainian businesswoman in Ireland

Wazp co-founder gripped by uncertainty and worry about family as Ukraine crisis worsens

Tralee firm Wazp co-founder Mariana Kobal can scarcely believe what is happening in her home country of Ukraine.

Sanctions imposed by western countries have failed to stop Russia moving closer to all-out war with Ukraine, as Moscow on Tuesday authorised troops to operate abroad and supported the claim of Kremlin-backed militants to Ukrainian territory.

Ms Kobal says she can barely concentrate these days. Her parents, daughter and sister all live in western Ukraine near the Polish side.

However she has told them to stock up on medicines and other products and they have done so.

“I am constantly checking with home. It is the uncertainty of tomorrow. I don’t know what is going to happen. Everyone is stocking up.”

Prices are rising in the economy and the president is trying to keep people calm, she thinks.

“The whole media is quieter about the war than here.”

Her parents, who are in their 60s, are optimistic people but are prepared for the worst, she says.

“The worst part is I am so far from them.”

She is considering travelling home, just in case. And she has talked with her daughter, Madlen, who is in her early 20s and is studying in Ukraine, about coming back to Ireland now.

What has happened over the past few days is like “an archive situation”, said Ms Kobal. What she means by the term, she explained, is that it is like living in the 1930s, or living in an anachronism.

“The diplomacy is the way, but I don’t know if the other side know what diplomacy is,” she says.

She said Mr Putin seems blinded by fame and power and by the Soviet Union history and power.

What is happening now is exactly what happened with Crimea in 2014, said Ms Kobal.

“Russia is doing exactly the same as in 2014,” she said.

First of all they are recognising autonomy of the republics and under that pretext then they bring in the peace keepers “quote-unquote”, she said.

"But what do you do? Do you start a war? No-one wants a war in Europe. "

Ukraine is one country, proud to be independent. “How can someone in our day come in and just take part of it? It’s absolutely so old-time thinking,” she said.

In the meantime, Ms Kobal is gripped by uncertainty and worry about her family.

Wazp, co-founded by engineer Shane Hassett and Ms Kobal in 2015, helped develop Ikea’s first mass-produced 3D-printed product. It now employs 20 and has moved into the former Borg Warner manufacturing plan and is seeking to become the world’s largest supplier of 3D-printed consumer products.