MEQUON, Wis. — A Mequon business owner who was born and raised in Ukraine is helping refugees who fled the country from half the world away.
Wisconsin is 5,000 miles from the devastation in Ukraine, but the connection is being made in a heartfelt way by a man who calls both places home.
“I’m very proud not to wear a suit today, but to wear a t-shirt that says ‘made in Ukraine,’” Alex Holden said.
Alex is a cyber security business owner who’s lived in Mequon for more than three decades. Born and raised in Kyiv, Alex traveled to his home country last fall with his wife.
“I visited Ukraine and walked through my old streets of childhood, and was really connecting back with this wonderful country,” he said. “Me and my wife even decided to expand our company in Ukraine and work with Ukrainian people.”
Little did Alex know everything in Ukraine would change just a few months later. Nevertheless, Alex decided to proceed with his plans, but instead of opening a cyber security firm in Kyiv during the war, he turned his Czech Republic offices into temporary homes for refugees and offered full-time cyber defense jobs to a dozen people who fled to neighboring countries for safety.
“We are finding people who have been displaced by the war and giving them extremely well paying jobs,” he said. “Cyber defense is something that we teach them right now and getting them ready for the future. Hopefully a peaceful future.”
One of those women is Alice Kupchynetska, who connected with Alex through mutual friends. Alice left Milwaukee’s sister city of Irpin a day after the Russian invasion began. That city is now in ruins with half of its infrastructure reportedly destroyed by Russian forces.
“I love Ukraine, I want to live in Irpin,” she said. “This is the best place.”
Alice shared this heartbreaking photo of her 8-year-old daughter giving her father a hug at the Ukrainian border before he headed back to defend their country.
Alice, her daughter, parents and grandmother made it safely to Croatia, making ends meet thanks to a steady income from the job Alex gave her.
“Alex has a big great heart,” she said. “He’s like my second father.”
Alice says Alex told her to focus more of her time on her family and grief rather than her job as they navigate the unknown.
“There are lots of families without jobs, and this is a problem, and we don’t know how huge of a problem I think,” she said.
Alex says his goal is to one day open a cyber security office in Kyiv when the war is over, so Ukrainian refugees who are currently working remotely for him can continue their jobs at home.
“A lot of them are looking at this with fascination and with hope,” he said.
Aside from helping Ukrainian refugees, Alex says he’s working with businesses across the United States to boost their security systems in case Russia launches cyber war.