“I consider the war a crime of politicians, but I will not take someone’s side in terms of nationality”

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“Development is a high priority for the country… They thought that if they took away everything linked with the USSR including Russian language and culture, some magic would come and help them out to enter the world, in which everything would be set up, and well organized,” a Ukrainian born Yuri Panchul says, adding that after the USSR collapsed, Ukrainians should have concentrated on hard, boring work on analyzing what works, what doesn’t for both in business and technology.

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For criticizing Ukraine from this perspective, Panchul regularly receives threats and hate messages, claiming “you are for Putin”, despite him highlighting that he is against the unprovoked war in Ukraine.

Yuri Panchul, a chip designer in Silicon Valley (MIPS, Juniper, Samsung), author of educational programs on microelectronics, grew up in Kyiv, Soviet Ukraine, attended a school for mathematics and technology, then studied in Moscow. Thirty years ago he moved to California, currently working for a high-tech company.

In the interview Panchul gave Slavic Sacramento, he extensively describes his experience of work with Russia, Ukraine, and China; shared his view on what Ukraine should have done for its own development after collapse of the USSR, and why many people now urge to cancel Russia, and everything Russian.

After 30 years of work and life in Silicon Valley, absorbing international experience Panchul believes that education, learning, building horizontal connections, collaboration, exchanging with practices, and proactivity are what leads to progress and what helps the world be a better place.

When talking about Ukraine and the war, he says he “has no idea what is going to happen in the future”.

“Maybe, Ukraine will get back all its territories and Russia will pay reparations. Or, maybe, Russia will conduct a certain settlement. I don’t want to determine what is going to happen with Russia and Ukraine. But in both countries, there will be young people who’ll have a chance to raise the status of their cultures in the world by means of inclusion into the international ecosystem of electronics design,” Panchul insists.

And he has a wonderful example of how it works. “If some time ago Japan didn’t work hard on the industry and raised the education level, nobody would be interested in its culture. But today, Japanese culture is known much better in the world than, let’s’ say, culture of the Philippines. Though, the Philippines also has ancient, rich culture,” Panchul explains.

He shared that when the war started, he talked to dozens of Americans, Asians, Chinese, Indians and many other people working in Silicon Valley, all of them said “I consider the war a crime of politicians, but I will not take someone’s side in terms of nationality”. 

Panchul especially highlighted that none of the people told him that they were for or against a certain nationality. “From this perspective, canceling culture, against everything Russian, is not acceptable for them or at least doesn’t look civilized,” he says. This reflects his personal views. However, he has faced lots of backlash from those who think differently. 

He admits that there are many talented young people and professors in Ukraine. But for some reasons, “Ukraine, after the USSR collapsed, decided that nothing can be done and de-facto ruined their chip design groups and production they had”. Then Ukraine was waiting for the West to come and fix up everything despite being proactive and offering interesting projects to the West. 

For Panchul, western governments’, private companies’ and business’s goals often don’t coincide. They are not a monolith.

So, for criticizing those aspects in Ukraine, Panchul gets threats to contact his HR, so that HR could take measures on him. He believes it goes from a very old, common Soviet practice, when anyone with a different opinion was publicly condemned by an employer. 

Nasty threats went further, and Panchul was added to Mirotvorets website, Ukrainian Kyiv-based website that publishes a running list, and sometimes personal information, of people who are considered by authors of the website to be “enemies of Ukraine. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) urged Ukraine to investigate the website’s operations. Being in Mirotvorets means that Panchul can be denied entry to Ukraine.

But Panchul holds his ground – people should educate, collaborate and work together. He personally witnessed, when young engineers from Moscow worked on the projects with engineers from California, Oregon, Great Britain “a cultural diffusion was happening”.

“They were exchanging with industrial practices, at the same time they were exchanging their values. Mutual trust grew that way. As a result of such experience, the young people won’t “un-human” each other and will treat each other reasonably. I saw that in the mutual work of Russian and Ukrainian engineers last year, and many years ago. When people work together, they inevitably treat each other better,” Panchul says.

Elena Kuznetsova, SlavicSac.com