This has been one of the most heartbreaking few weeks I have had as the head of our firm, Mirabello Consultancy. And it’s not just virtue-signaling — actual Ukrainians are calling us asking me for help, and we can’t help them.
I’m not saying “Woe is me” like I’m the victim, being as how I’m safe in Switzerland while Russian convoys rumble toward Kyiv and reports of attacks in civilian zones proliferate.
But it hits me in the pit of my stomach when my Ukrainian contacts call me, asking — almost begging — to get a passport or a Golden Visa from another country so they can get out and stay out as long as they need to.
I reluctantly have to tell them “I can’t help you now. Governments are shut down. We can’t get the funding and documentation we need. The time to get this done was before the Russian troops invaded.”
Some of them have been talking to me about second passports and Golden Visas for years … but they never pulled the trigger. It was never the right time … or it was on the back burner … their capital and attention were needed elsewhere.
The Ukrainian crisis has shown us, starkly, how quickly everything can change. It has been a fast-moving tragedy. Putin invaded, refugees rushed to the border … and within a few days, the Ukrainian government issued an edict that all men between the ages of 18-60 be denied exit.
I know of one American woman, married to a Ukrainian man and residing with him outside Kyiv, who fled to the Polish border, only to be separated from her husband due to the male-retention policy. She and their two children and two cats crossed over to safety. He must now stay and wait it out. The family is split up, with the husband’s fate much more uncertain.
But if he had a foreign passport to present at the border, there’s a chance that they couldn’t have kept him in.
It’s not only Ukrainians in my inbox. Russians are calling me too, appalled at the actions of their government and wanting to get out before the blow-back can hit them. I can’t really help them either due to newly imposed sanctions restricting most of the population of western financial inclusion.
I am reminded of an old proverb — “Dig your well before you're thirsty.”
It makes sense, right? If you wait until you get thirsty, you could die of dehydration before your shovel ever hits the water table.
In the case of Ukraine, the time to build their exit strategy was before war broke out. For many of my contacts — people I could have helped — their only choice now is to sit tight and survive.
Perhaps Ukraine feels like a special case. After all, Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea as recently as 2014. Its modern history with its aggressive neighbor state has been far from stable. If I were a Ukrainian living in Kyiv, I would have been securing my second passport or Golden Visa as soon as Putin seized Crimea. The very same day.
But turn the clock back far enough, and you will discover a crisis in every nation. The fact is, a crisis can strike anywhere. Even if things are calm now, some of these passports and visas take months to obtain, even years. A lot can change in that time frame.
The sad lesson of Ukraine is this — if you’re thinking of building an exit strategy around a second citizenship or Golden Visa in case the worst happens, don’t wait. Tomorrow could be too late.
Wishing you all the Best and until next time,
Vito & Mirabello Consultancy Team