Employees of SE Ranking, the Silicon Valley company whose chief accountant is the first known tech worker to be killed in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, want Tatiana Perebeinis to be remembered for more than the way in which she died, a co-worker told MarketWatch on Wednesday.
“She was like a big sister to all of us. Kind, smart, funny, fearless, courageous,” SE Ranking spokeswoman Ksenia Khirvonina said in an interview via videoconference from Dubai, where she has fled to escape the fighting in Ukraine. “She never lost her optimism until the last moments, even from her basement. She kept telling us, ‘Everything will be OK.’”
Khirvonina’s lingering memory of her friend came on a corporate team-building weekend in the nearby country of Georgia just before the invasion. Perebeinis convinced a reticent Khirvonina to para-glide for the first time.
“She urged me to try it, and I can never thank her enough for that experience,” Khirvonina said. “That will forever be my memory of her.”
Perebeinis, who was essentially the chief financial officer at SE Ranking, and her two children, Nikita, 18, and Alise, 9, were killed by Russian artillery Sunday in Irpin, a city near Kyiv, while they were attempting to flee the country. Her death was captured on video and still images, one of which was featured on the front page of the New York Times on Sunday in one of the most indelible and horrifying images from Russia’s invasion. Perebeinis is survived by her husband, Sergiy, who is still in Ukraine and organizing her funeral.
Perebeinis, 43, who started as an accountant at the SEO software company in 2016, was based in Kyiv — as are roughly half of SE Ranking’s 100 employees. The company is based in Palo Alto, Calif.
“There are no words to describe our grief or to mend our pain,” the company posted on Facebook. “But for us, it is crucial to not let Tania and her kids Alise and Nikita remain just statistics. Her family became the victim of the unprovoked fire on civilians, which under any law is a crime against humanity.”
For Khirvonina, who left war-torn Ukraine for Dubai with her mother on Feb. 22 in one of the last commercial flights out of the country, the continuing invasion has left her angry, confused and “feeling helpless.”
“We are trying to cope. Nobody I know thought this would happen,” said Khirvonina, whose aunt, cousins and friends are still in Ukraine. “Cities are surrounded. There is no water, gas, food, nothing. They just wait in basements for humanitarian help.”
SE Ranking’s irreparable loss is causing concern for scores of tech companies with employees scattered across Ukraine, a country the size of Texas with many tech workers. Startups, midsize companies and major brands such as Google parent Alphabet Inc.
Cisco Systems Inc.
and Snap Inc.
have made significant investments in a country that has been a vital resource for engineering talent, 3-D modeling and customer service.
Cloud-services company Wix.com
one of Israel’s biggest employers in Ukraine, said it had evacuated most of its 1,000 employees and their families to Turkey, with Wix picking up the tab for moving expenses. Cisco has also evacuated employees out of Ukraine.
Most of JustAnswer Inc.’s 250 employees in Ukraine have remained, forcing the San Francisco-based company to take Herculean steps to maintain operations with backup diesel generators, laptops and internet service. It has also lost employees indefinitely to military service.
Ukraine ranks 37th out of 90 countries in growth as a digital economy, according to Bhaskar Chakravorti, dean of global business at The Fletcher School, Tufts University.
“It is very difficult for everyone,” said Khirvonina, who has no idea where she will end up. “Our company. We have no words but curses for Russians. But this you need to know: The more you hit Ukrainians, the more they fight back.”
SE Ranking revealed in a tweet Wednesday that it is cutting off operations in Russia by not allowing new accounts to be set up in the company nor allowing payment for current subscriptions.
Meta Platforms Inc.
Exxon Mobil Corp.
Walt Disney Co.
Ford Motor Co.
and Starbucks Corp.