I love life, always have To me living is not about the latest smartphone, big screen TV or fancy car, it’s about people. Wherever I go I love meeting new folks. Many think I’m crazy for staying in Kyiv during wartime, but the reason is the truly amazing people. Ukrainians are some of the best people on earth, and the day-to-day resolve they show on the battlefield, and on the streets of Kyiv is nothing short of inspiring.
Occasionally however, a people person like me encounters someone who’s not only a good soul, but a perfect fit for what I’m up to at the time – and exactly when I need them. A friend of mine calls this type of chance meeting serendipity, but I also think of it as good karma. I believe that if you exude positive energy, the world will present you with good things and it’s often by way of serendipity.
I was recently in Switzerland attending the Basel Peace Forum where I met some fantastic people. Academics, lawyers, diplomats, journalists and humanitarians from all over the world got together for two days to discuss the effect borders have on peace. Serendipitously, I met a cool young entrepreneur who’s building next generation bicycle paths and bridges from engineered wood, complete with solar panels. This fits perfectly within our ReBuild Ukraine urban planning process.
After leaving Basel, I headed to Berlin for one night and went to the restaurant recommended by a friendly Berliner I met at my Kyiv hotel a few weeks earlier. While sitting at the bar in the schnitzel restaurant, I struck up a conversation with the gentleman on my left, Toni. Talk eventually turned to Ukraine and the fact that I’ve been living in Kyiv for the past six months. Turns out that Toni is a producer who did a booming business filming commercials in Kyiv before the war and he had the pictures to prove it.
I then chatted with the couple on my right, Alex and Meike. Alex runs a humanitarian software company using technology to increase the logistical efficiency of food donation for the hungry and displaced. Meike is an archaeologist and art historian who specializes in recovering precious cultural items that have been looted during wartime. It’s not just washing machines and TVs that Russian troops are stealing from homes across the country. They’re also removing art and icons from churches and destroying statues in public squares.
Are all these encounters coincidental or karma?
Just when I thought I was out…
I was nearing the Ukrainian border at Przemyśl, Poland late on Sunday night and was sure my serendipity had taken a well-deserved nap. All the restaurants and stores were closed, except one pizza joint. I sat down beside a group of Dutch students and eventually asked why they’re at the border. Incredibly, they’ve established a volunteer group to collect support from the Netherlands and deliver to Ukraine.
As part of The Peace Coalition’s efforts we receive many requests for different types of aid, so now we have a group in Holland to act as an intermediary to source and deliver anything we need for Ukrainians. Talk about good karma, or was it just a coincidence?
A few months ago I met a Aussie in an Amsterdam cafe and we had a great chat about almost everything. We solved climate change, eliminated poverty and debated who’d win the Champion League this season. After an hour of talking, my friend got up to leave, shook my hand and said, “Thank you for sharing some of your life with me.” I was gobsmacked by the beauty of such simple parting words, but realized I’d never have heard it if I hadn’t been as open to sharing my life as he was of his.