Part 1 is here
However Pickard & Co. Ltd not only survived but even expanded it's sphere of operations from not only real estate but into magazine publishing with initially The Ukrainian, a highly successful current affairs magazine in the Ukrainian and English languages, followed 2 years later with the FMCG trade magazine Tovar Litsom. Also during this period up to Ukraine's next cataclysm in 2004 Pickard became the Ukraine representative for the worldwide real estate group NAI Global.
However then came Ukraine's first revolution in 2004 called the Orange Revolution which thankfully was bloodless but very passionate. This passion was clearly visible in the eyes of especially the young which were bright with optimism for the future. And here at Pickard we were right in the 'thick of it' as the Yushenko camp, the revolution leaders, had their campaign headquarters in our downstairs offices on Prorizna St. Especially our young staff were involved organising flasks of coffee, food handouts and warm clothing for the demonstrators and joining the crowds on Khreschatyk ( I always found it puzzling why demonstrations were organised in winter when it could reach -20°).
The revolution was a success as the incumbent President was replaced by the revolution defacto leader Viktor Yushenko but unfortunately it all went downhill from then on. Yet again little changed and the populace faced more disappointment with their elected President and the manipulated Rada.However the economy continually improved during this period especially in the real estate sector which saw property prices rocket up to prices per square metre that we will probably not experience again for a decade or more. Prime prime properties were achieving prices up to and beyond $20,000 per square metre and top business centres such as Leonardo were charging rental rates of $80++ per square metre and retail premises on Khreschatyk $200 per m2. Good business for real estate agents. However these heady days were sure to end. An old adage says says 'when taxi drivers start talking about buying or borrowing to buy land it's time to get out'.
This was happening in Kiev and this old adage proved to be so true and not just in this country as in the autumn of 2008 came the worldwide financial crash. Everyone, everywhere went into panic mode as there were runs on banks everywhere, banks were closing down or being taken over by governments, currencies went wobberly everywhere and property prices dropped 'like a stone' everywhere.
Kyiv was no exception. The Hgryvna plummeted from 5 to 8 to the $, home owners that had borrowed in $ or € had to renege on their mortgages as they couldn't fund a 60% cost increase, banks were left with thousands of residential and commercial properties worth much less than the outstanding debt and virtually no buyers at any price. And this was happening around the world.
It was a difficult time to be in business because there was no business. It was particularly difficult for me personally as in June 2009 I had my stroke which initially left me parrallised on my right side. For the next 6 months I was incapacitated as I fought to recover from the effects of the stroke. I remember fighting to walk properly again and specifically having to learn to write again. I sat at home writing out the alphabet time and time again until I got it right. I particularly remember that to stir a cup of tea I had to stir with my whole body not just with my wrist.
It was at this time that the 2 senior directors of the company Sergiy But and Svitlana Shulevska took over leadership of the company. It was also at this time that with little business the company had to severely reduce its operations so all our overseas companies were closed down with just Pickard & Co. Ltd Ukraine remaining. Fortunately by quick and dramatic management decisions we stabilised the company and all our key staff stayed with us through these traumatic years.
It was no doubt due to these factors that the company survived all these problems and slowly arose from ' the flames like a phoenix' and gradually started to expand again. It was also at this time we adopted the phrase 'when the going gets tough the tough get going' as our company motto.
It was also during this period that running a business got more and more difficult due to the constant requests from various official bodies for cash payments to comply with their interpretation of the relevant laws or for selected companies to hand over a percentage of their a company or face a massive tax invasion. It was this level of corruption combined with Yanakovich's sudden reversal regarding the signing of the EU Free Trade Agreement that finally caused the nation to revolt. And once again Maidan and Khreschatyk were invaded by thousands of protesters with their tents combined with massive street protests with up to a million marchers participating. And all my family, friends and employees were there marching and helping with whatever they could.
Unfortunately this time it wasn't bloodless as 100 demonstrators sacrificed with their lives to finally overthrow this unbelievably greedy defacto dictator.
Yet again the young were excited and optimistic about the future and a new President was elected who had actually participated in the protests. However old habits die hard and he was first and foremost an oligarch with a lot of primarily self interest at the fore.
However most agree that Ukraine still has a way to go to be a true democracy and corruption is still a major obstacle for Ukraine to achieve its full potential.
Anyway hopefully it's the last time it needs a revolution and we will gradually get evolution instead. However the consensus of opinion is that 'things can only get better' from now on. Let's hope so after 25 years.