War in Ukraine: WU EA’s Network of Helping Hands

June 14, 2022

According to estimates of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of early June 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war in the country has so far forced about 7.3 million Ukrainians to flee their country. About 55,000 of them have reached Austria, some of them after extremely perilous and troublesome journeys. Against this backdrop, alumni, students, and employees of the WU Executive Academy have been offering help and places to stay ever since the onset of the war. They have also put their network connections to use to support refugees in their job search, visa applications, and many more things. A different way of using your contacts – to help people in need.

Many outlines of faces form a large outline of a face in the colors of Ukraine (blue, yellow)
Alumni, students and employees of the WU Executive Academy are helping refugees from Ukraine with whatever they can. Photo © shutterstock - Lightspring

War causes unimaginable suffering, hardships, and destruction – and it tears people apart. But war also encourages people to look after each other. This is the case when they help each other in difficult times.

The war in Ukraine has given rise to a hitherto unseen level of solidarity: numerous companies, organizations, associations, and private individuals in Austria have moved quickly to offer unpaid help for refugees and people affected by the war in unbureaucratic ways.

It might be a small contribution in the overall picture, but also people at the WU Executive Academy have been doing their part. “We were so impressed by how students, our network’s alumni, and many employees acted in the days and weeks following the outbreak of this horrible war: they were so eager to help and full of feelings of solidarity. That’s why we think that it is so important to support these outstanding initiatives as much as we can,” says Barbara Stöttinger, Dean of the WU Executive Academy. Particularly the network of alumni was quick to mobilize helping hands.

Portrait Barbara Stöttinger

Barbara Stöttinger

  • Dean of the WU Executive Academy

This was only possible because the network is so well established and operates so smoothly. Not only but also for times of crises, it’s a good investment to keep in touch with your contacts.

Why the Right Network Is So Important

The International Advisory Board (IAB) of the WU Executive Academy not only shares its expertise and valuable practical insights with the WU Executive Club, it also provides help by connecting people as required by certain situations and needs and actively supports projects on site. When several graduates from Ukraine asked for help in their job search, the network set out to act: CVs were forwarded and network members recommended the searching parties for open posts and to companies.

Also Susanne Bixner of the HR agency Inner Circle Consultants, who has closely collaborated with the WU Executive Academy as a career partner for many years, did not hesitate to offer help.

Susanne Bixner Portrait

Susanne Bixner

  • Career Partner of the WU Executive Academy

As a partner of the WU Executive Academy, I gain so much from being part of this enormous international network that forges meaningful, international links between people.

“That’s how it becomes possible to act fast and efficiently in emergencies, such as the Ukraine crisis, and help people from this network and their families quickly and unbureaucratically,” Susanne Bixner says. This is how an alumna from Ukraine found a job in Austria.

Rita Jakusch, a member of the International Advisory Board who is a supervisory board member at the real estate developer NOE Immobilien Development GmbH, confirms the network’s force for the good.

Rita Jakusch Portrait

Rita Jakusch

  • IAB member and Global Executive MBA alumna

Its global alumni network is one of the key perks of completing continuous education studies at the WU Executive Academy. Not all graduates are actively involved in it because networking is, in fact, work: it is about helping others without expecting something in return.

“I am convinced that both individuals and society benefit so much from networks, and I am proud to have been able to help some Ukrainian graduates find work in Austria. They were not expecting this help but they were really glad about it in this horrendous situation. Sometimes help arrives when you least expect it – and that’s true for all members of the network”, says Rita Jakusch

The Many Faces of Help

IAB members did not only help war refugees in their search for a job but also offered them a place to live. They got in touch with members of the network who were able to offer apartments or living space to families who had to flee the war.

The WU Executive Academy team was actively involved in this process as well. An employee got in touch with the real estate company BUWOG, which promptly made 30 flats available for refugees. Some of them were furnished by IAB members, among them a Ukrainian and a Russian member. Assembling the furniture was completed as a group effort. Further IAB members and employees of the WU Executive Academy collected money and large amounts of donations in kind operating several collection points and, among other things, filling a whole truck with goods to be delivered to the Polish border.

3 people assemble beds in one apartment
In addition to monetary donations and voluntary work, apartments were also organized, and some IAB members even set up furniture in them.

Official Help Provided by WU

The WU Executive Academy also supported its helping employees in its role as an employer. For one thing, an in-house collection point for donations in kind was set up. For another, employees who wanted to join the relief efforts were permitted to use up to two work days to volunteer at the refugee support center set up at Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center where donations were collected and distributed. Several teams of volunteers from the WU Executive Academy took up this offer. On various days throughout May, they supported staff handing out food and taking care of dishes, looking after children, and preparing places to sleep.

Staff of the WU Executive Academy at the Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center
In small groups, WU Executive Academy staff helped refugees at the Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center.

Along with some colleagues, Christina Knopf, who is responsible for Learning Design & Program Management in the Executive Education field, joined the relief efforts for two days: “I was so glad about this opportunity to spend two afternoons of our work hours at Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center to help when help was needed,” she says. “By volunteering in this refugee center, we were able to make a small contribution to help people who had to flee the war. It also deepens your understanding of what kind of hardships people suffer during war, and it fills you with awe regarding the amazing work refugee organizations around the world do every day,” Christa Knopf says.

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