Foreword from Andrey Stavnitser
I met Howard during our fundraising for Superhumans. And this is the most unexpected acquaintance of my life. The heir of, probably, the biggest wealth in the world turned out to be the most modest, noble and compassionate of all whom I've known yet. Howard devoted his life to philanthropy.
He travels to the world's hottest spots to see what's going on himself and get help to the points with the biggest impact. He is in charge of a huge charity – Howard Buffet's Foundation – which saves the poorest countries from starvation, and obviously receives hundreds requests for help.
Curious fact – Howard never answers emails or texts longer than 15 minutes since he receives them. This has got me developing a complex: why Howard manages to answer within 15 minutes, and I am putting my thoughts together for 2 hours already? So I sit down and write my answers ;))
Howard sent me the letter, quoted below, on November 23, the day of another russian attack on our infrastructure. I had doubts, but thought these words were too powerful to be read only by me. Looks like all of us, Ukrainians, might need them these days.
Thank you, Howard.
I publish it with a kind permission from the author.
In the photo from left to right Andriy Stavnitser and Howard Buffet
Andrey, emotion is part of survival. There is nothing wrong with showing emotion. I tell people there has never been such an important time in my life that demands my attention than what is happening in Ukraine.
I have spent my life working in conflict areas. I have literally watched children dying in front of me from starvation, visited with former child soldiers who at 8 years old had their chest cut open and cocaine forced into them so they would kill, I have talked with people in sierra leon who have no arms because rebels cut them off and gave them a "short sleeve" because they voted, during the conflict in Bosnia I stood in disbelief staring at a soccer field turned into a cemetery so many people were killed so fast they had nowhere else to bury them, I have smelled the burnt flesh of people tortured by rebels, I remember photographing the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda… that and Bosnia comes the closest to the feelings I have when I see what is happening in Ukraine, but Ukraine goes beyond any thing I have witnessed.
What I do not understand about Ukraine is how the world is watching. We are not doing nothing, but we are not doing enough to stop the targeted and systematic torture and killing of civilians at a level I have never seen in my lifetime. It is pure criminal and barbaric behavior.
We are partially participating which allows this carnage to continue. And people conveniently forget our promises to Ukraine in the 1990's.
We had no commitment that obligated us to fight in Viet Nam or Afghanistan. But we made a commitment to Ukraine to protect your sovereignty. We look back in horror at actions of other regimes and individuals in history and say "never again", yet never again is unfolding in front of us – we are watching it, we are allowing it! Our worst failures as human beings that have been recorded in history are occurring again.
I don't know what to say to the Ukrainian people. What is there to say? Do I apologize because there is not enough leadership to stand firm and end this? Do I admit it is more convenient for many to stand ideally by without the resolve to do what is right? Do I accept that it is easier for some to observe from a safe distance the attempt to destroy a complete society? Or do I simply watch realizing some are too scared of the consequences to act? I truly do not understand this timid world.
I know one thing, when I'm asked someday what I did as Ukraine was being attacked, my conscious must know I did everything that I could do with the resources I had available. It is not enough, but it is what I can do.
I will see you in the day of Victory... And that day will be full of emotion.