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20-year-old refugee fled U kraine with$2,000 in Bitcoin

Mar 24, 2022
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He fled with his life saving in Bitcoin on a USB drive. Here’s how cryptocurrencies are helping the country stand amid Russia’s invasion.

A 20-year-old refugee fled Ukraine with just a USB pen containing about $2,000 in Bitcoin from his savings. As reported today by CNBC, the Ukrainian, going by Fadey to protect his privacy, is just one of many refugee crossing European borders with cryptocurrencies instead of physical cash.

I couldn’t withdraw cash at all, because the queues to ATMs were so long, and I couldn’t wait that much time” Fadey told CNBC. So he made a peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange with a friend, trading $600 worth of his bitcoin savings for złoty, the Polish national currency, which he then used to pay for a bus, a bed in an hostel for him and his girlfriend, and some food. The speed and ease of that crypto transaction proved instrumental: within two hours of his safe passage into Poland, Ukraine closed its borders to all men of fighting age. That’s why many have turned to cryptocurrency to safeguard their cash, bring their money with them, accept remittances and donations and transact with each other for daily necessities.

Fadey’s experience highlights some of the most important characteristics of bitcoin: it’s valid across borders, requires no bank, and is tethered to its owner by a password, making it a lot harder to steal than cash. But it also show how cryptocurrency is helping a country that needs money and lacks functioning banks. Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation Alex Bornyakov said last week that “In a situation like this where the national bank is not really operating, crypto is helping to perform fast transfers, to make it very quick and get results almost immediately,” adding that “the role of cryptocurrencies is “essential in this conflict, in terms of helping our army.”

Ukraine had already begun embracing crypto before its war with Russia. In a global index by Chainalysis, the country was ranked fourth for cryptocurrency adoption among its citizens last year. The conflict just speeded up the government’s ambitions to build an innovative, blockchain-friendly economy.

On March 17th, President Volodymyr Zelensky officially signed a profile law legalizing cryptocurrency assets which provides the enabling environment for the conditions for the launch of a legal market for virtual assets in the country.

The government has raised more than US$100 million in cryptocurrency donations since the war started and recently announced the launch of an official donation website acceptin nine different cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin, ether, tether, solana, monero and dogecoin.

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