Yana Matviychuk – the owner of businesses in the creative industry (ARENA CS, Nixwood, Enercell, etc.), investor. Public figure and initiator of several social projects. Co-founder and member of the Board of the charitable foundation Women’s Aid International. The author and host of the Business Arena YouTube channel – an educational channel about the free economy. She embodies her mission to develop the business community as a Board Member of the strongest business club in Ukraine – Young Business Club.


 – You were born in Budapest. How did it happen if your parents are Ukrainians?


I was born in 1982 in Hungary. At that time, many soldiers constantly traveled to the republics of the Soviet Union and the countries of the socialist camp – my father was one of these soldiers. We lived in the town of Sentedre in Hungary – there was a military unit where my father served. I was born in Budapest.


Several years ago, I took my mother to where our family lived for a while and where I was born. First, we went to Budapest. From there, we took the train to Sentedre. The town of Sentedre itself is lovely. Residents of this city specialize in making marzipan. In Sentendre there are dozens of shops and cafes with marzipan figurines. And it looks very nice, like a museum of marzipan sculptures.


Not far from the city center is a military unit where the imperialist Soviet army lived. It is now a horrible, abandoned place. There is still this big concrete house of former soldiers, but everything is overgrown with grass. In Sentendre, two parallel worlds exist side by side: there is a free, beautiful, prosperous Europe, and there is a concrete, abandoned “Soviet state”. It’s such a contrast for me.

This trip became a visual illustration of the Western world and its values, and there is an unaesthetic post-Soviet part of the world that looks completely inorganic.


We came to the house where my parents lived. Hungarians have now set up a chicken coop there. It is very telling that the Soviet building is only suitable for a chicken coop. This building is expensive to destroy, and no one wants to use it. There is no normal person who would live in such a place. In the context of modern warfare, this makes it clear what we are currently fighting for in Ukraine.


We lived near Budapest for three years. Then they moved to Kazakhstan and lived there for 8 years. It was a Soviet village with no place for the local population – Kazakhs. When I studied at school, there were only 2 Kazakhs in our class, and they were constantly bullied and mocked because they did not know the Russian language well. It is already clear that Kazakhs and Ukrainians were treated the same in the Soviet Union. 


Yana Matviychuk, founder and CEO of ARENA CS


– How did you get to Kyiv? What did you do?


I remember well when the collapse of the Soviet Union took place. We lived in Kazakhstan then. We had a nice 3-room apartment at that time. Everything was fine.

But my father, as a military man, foresaw that something would happen soon, and a few months before the collapse of the Union, he went to Ukraine to start arranging life there and create conditions for the whole family to move. My father is from Volyn’, and my mother is from Donetsk. That is why my father first went to look for a job in Donbas, but after a long search, he found one in Kyiv. So we moved.


I got to know Ukraine long ago – somewhere in the 1st grade, when I first came to spend the summer without my parents at my grandmother’s in Volyn’. I heard Ukrainian there. I did not understand at all why my grandmother spoke a different language. Before that, I did not hear Ukrainian because we communicated in Russian in the family, although my father spoke Ukrainian. I realized I had a different identity during a trip to my grandmother’s house.


We have been living in Kyiv since 1993. And I consider this city my native. When we moved to the capital of Ukraine, I saw the Red Building of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv and decided I wanted to study there.

I was very impressed by the Red Building because I had never seen such buildings in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is a very beautiful country – spacious steppes and beautiful, constantly snow-covered mountains on the horizon. When the heat, even at home, is over 40 degrees, you can see the snow-capped peaks of the mountains from the balcony.


But then, there were no such beautiful buildings as I saw in Kyiv. Kyiv was a discovery for me. Already from the 8th grade, I planned to enter Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. I learned that there is a law faculty in the Red Building and began to prepare. I couldn’t enter law school because there was terrible corruption at that time, and I didn’t want to pay a bribe under any circumstances. That is why I chose the history faculty. I entered on general terms, and my dream of studying in the Red Building came true. I still consider it the best university education I could have received because it is fundamental. This education ultimately shaped my outlook and values and taught me to navigate historical and political contexts and philosophical issues well.  


The faculty of history does not teach only to know historical events. Higher education is about the ability to acquire information correctly. At the history faculty, we worked with sources, spent much time in libraries, and learned how to get the information correctly. That is why I believe fundamental humanitarian education is almost the best thing to happen to a person. Therefore, I wish everyone to choose the right education.

I graduated from the university with a master’s degree. My specialty is the history of the Slavs.


Yana Matviichuk. Family

Love Story

I met my future husband at the university. Back then, professor Kryzhanovsky joked: “All the men who entered the history faculty want to be politicians, and the women want to get married successfully.” At that time, I did not know that I would successfully marry the history faculty.


Once after the 4th course in 2003, I went to a sanatorium in Crimea. I went alone because my friend got married and all my vacation plans were ruined. By chance, I met my fellow student Maxim there. He also went to the sanatorium with some of his friends. This sanatorium was located in Saky and was not for youth at all. But it just so happened that many young people were at this event.

Then Max and I traveled all over Crimea together. It was my first and last visit to Crimea. I was impressed by the history, palaces, nature, and Maxim’s company. Crimea is a very symbolic place for me and Max. It bound us forever.

Back then, in Crimea, I clearly understood that Maxim would be my future husband. After returning from Crimea, I told my mother and father that I had met my future husband and that in 10 years, we will get married. Then they laughed about it and somehow forgot about it.

Our next meeting with Max took place 5 years later. We found each other on social networks and started talking again.

At that time, I had already created my own business and was quite successful and independent.


Max and I met, and we had lunch – I immediately remembered that we should get married 10 years after our meeting in Crimea. But only 5 have passed.

Over the next 5 years, we sometimes went snowboarding together, but we each lived our own lives.


In 2013 – exactly 10 years after meeting in a sanatorium in Crimea– Max and I somehow imperceptibly started dating and married. It all happened very quickly.

Later, we discussed why we didn’t start a relationship earlier and realized that we used this time to grow. Because if we had been together when we were young, we would have broken up dozens of times already. And so, each of us has matured to create a strong family. Now we have two wonderful daughters.


Then Max and I mentioned that in Crimea, we had jokingly agreed to get married in 10 years. And so, everything came true.


 – In 2014, you founded the company ARENA CS. The starting capital was only $300. Tell us how you decided to start your own company in the year when the Orange Revolution took place.

 My professional path began after my 1st year of university. I came home from vacation and saw a note from my father on the table. There was the phone number of the Museum of Hetmanship and the words “Go to work. Dad”. Then I realized my carefree life was over, and I had to earn money. At first, I worked for 4 years at the Museum of Hetmanship, then at a company selling courses, team buildings, and so on. While working for this company, I simultaneously posted ads on the Internet that I was a professional event manager and could organize any event. And it was 2004, and the Internet looked far different then than it does now.

I worked for the company for several months; not everything went well: I was a sales manager, and this is not an easy job. I quit my job and went to work in a hotel. But I dreamed all the time about her own business.

After some time, a girl called me and said I was recommended as a professional event organizer. It was an event for international organizations of several dozen people. At that moment, I realized this was my chance to prove to everyone that I can do business. I held this event when I had nothing at all. Even a bank account.


However, my business was built through another event. It all started in November 2004, just at the beginning of the Orange Revolution.

I finished the first project. The Revolution had already begun, and there was a complete misunderstanding of what would happen to the country next.

ARENA CS is a creative event agency

And then they called me again. One of the event participants called and asked if she could recommend me to her friends from America because she liked how I organized everything. I agreed because it was a chance to become a completely different person and start doing business systematically.

I came to a meeting with an American who was planning an event to be attended by participants from over 150 countries. Fortunately, I knew English and could explain to him why holding such an event in Kyiv is practically impossible. For example, in 2004, there was only one 5-star hotel in Kyiv. There were also no halls where an event of this scale could be held.

At that moment, I was extremely frank with my future client about the infrastructure in Kyiv and the possibility of holding events. This openness later allowed us to build close partnerships for many years. For me, trust is the highest value.

After our meeting, this American invited me as an expert to attend all meetings with applicant companies for this event. For me, it was a chance to see all the competitors. In short, they all offered lard and vodka. Nothing interesting.


Several months passed, but there was no news from the Americans – the event in Ukraine had to be officially confirmed. I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and called Washington. I left my proposal on the answering machine regarding the possibilities of Kyiv and my team organizing this Assembly and waited.

They called me at the end of the week, said they liked my terms, and were ready to sign the contract next week. Every day before signing the contract, I woke up in the morning in complete shock because I still had no bank account, no LLC… But I managed to open everything: we signed the contract after all.

The project from the Americans is the Assembly, which was supposed to take place in 4 years – in 2008. Nothing is clear in the country of the Revolution, and I have obligations: to invite the President, send invitations to 650 participants from more than 100 countries, and prepare the event for 4 years. The amount of the contract was 2 million dollars.


Later, the Americans told me they already wanted to hold the Assembly in another country, but then some “crazy” called them, and they decided to choose Ukraine. America is the land of opportunity.


During these 4 years, I realized that it is necessary to organize my own business because it is impossible to work for 4 years for the sake of one event. The situation itself pushed me to create a company. That’s how I founded the creative agency ARENA CS.


To be an entrepreneur is to learn constantly

– You are a wife and mother of two daughters. How do you manage to combine everything?


We must remember that children will grow up as you are parents. Children will copy our character traits, habits, words, and even bedtime from early childhood. I want my daughters to be happy and realize themselves in this world. For this, I have to find my happy way and be an example for them.

I’m a working mom, I’ve never been on maternity leave for more than a month, and I’m pretty cool that I might not be perfect.

Being a mother and a wife is a genuine happiness for me, but I know very well that my strong side is creating motivated teams, initiating projects, and finding new opportunities. Today, I own several businesses, a member of the Board of powerful business clubs, an investor, a public figure, the initiator of several social projects, and a film producer. Ukraine inspires me because it is here that you can find yourself in the flow that today is transforming Ukraine into a new nation. Therefore, I do everything possible to protect our freedom and territory and initiate projects that will positively affect the lives of Ukrainians.

In August 2004, I opened my first business – ARENA CS. This company is still working successfully today. Although we have survived several powerful economic and political upheavals together: the Orange Revolution, the crisis of 2008, the revolution and war of 2013-2014, Covid, and now full-scale war. My activity is related to two areas: the development of civil society in Ukraine and the creative industry. I am especially proud of my activities in civil society development. Since 2004, I have observed how much effort and resources the European Union and the USA invest in developing democracy and a conscious society in Ukraine. Strong international support all these years fueled the true Ukrainian spirit: the desire for freedom, tolerance, justice, and equal opportunities for all. The Ukrainian mentality is very similar to the European one. Maybe that’s why Ukrainian refugees are quickly adapting to life in Europe.


In May 2022, together with our business colleagues, we intensified the work of Women’s Aid International. The Fund focuses on programs to support mental health and ensure the humanitarian needs of the elderly and forcibly displaced people in Kyiv (Darnytskyi and Dnipro districts). Currently, we have more than 1,000 wards of the Fund.


My partners and I have changed the development strategy of the Young Business Club, and from August 2022, we are opening branches not only in Ukraine but also around the world – our Club unites Ukrainian entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs of Ukrainian origin in Germany, Portugal, Spain, Poland and even on the island of Bali. We organize monthly charity auctions and fundraisings for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We will work so that Ukrainians return to the Motherland after the victory. We currently have more than 1,000 club members worldwide. 


Largely positive plans for the future help to move forward and maintain the economic front in these difficult times.

Family. The most valuable moments

 – How did you perceive the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24? How did the children react?


On February 23, my husband flew to Bukovel with my elder daughter, and I stayed in Kyiv with my younger. Our family met a full-scale war in different parts of Ukraine.


For two days, my youngest and I sat in a bomb shelter – a parking lot under our house in Kyiv. I, a three-year-old child, a grandmother, a nanny, and several hundred other Kyivans. The husband and the elder daughter could not return to Kyiv, so we decided they would stay there for some time. Later, the whole family met in Ternopil at a friend’s house. 


I have been in business for 19 years; I am used to working a lot. During this time, I realized that all talents awaken during some crisis. The war was no exception. From the first hours of the war, I actively worked for the needs of the army and Ukraine. It was one of the most correct decisions made in the first hours of the war. Psychologically, it saved me from possible despair and disorientation.


Thanks to my nanny and grandmother, I turned all my attention to helping the army. In the bomb shelter, she found the Internet near a wall, put a child’s seat there from the car, and plunged into work.


I want to hug every person with whom I had the honor to communicate in those first, most terrible days of the war. Complete strangers. Someone called and gave a ton of sausage for territorial defense, someone – tens of thousands of sandbags or tons of fuel for trucks carrying concrete slabs for roadblocks. As recently as Wednesday, February 23, I negotiated the signing of a multi-million dollar contract with a businessman, and already on Thursday, he gave me hundreds of shovels for digging trenches, which I handed over to the territorial defense of Kyiv. Ukraine was instantly connected by a network of volunteers, caring citizens, entrepreneurs, soldiers, doctors, paramedics, and activists. We are united in a joint action that cannot be artificially created. I am proud to be Ukrainian in such historical times for our nation.  

Yana Matviychuk, Independence Square, spring 2022

 – Your ARENA CS business was suspended during the first months of the “great war”. How did you manage to keep the business and the team? Did you fire people?


Since gaining independence, Ukraine has experienced upheavals. Since 2014, the war has strongly impacted business, the economy, and investments. However, these difficulties have taught me several important principles:


First, while waiting for favorable conditions for effective business conduct, one should use one’s efforts and time to benefit society. This allows you to keep yourself busy and help the victims.

But the most important thing is to feel that life goes on and people do not give up. For event organizers who are used to constant activity, work for results, and control over processes, the worst thing is inactivity and complete uncertainty of the future. And providing help to those who need it allows you to maintain your psycho-emotional state. A full-scale war only confirmed that this principle is life-saving.


In the first weeks of the war, almost every company employee was involved in volunteer work. And interestingly, it was the employees who took the initiative. We actively cooperated with various volunteer organizations and helped on a volunteer basis to our Armed Forces and territorial defense with the purchase of necessary equipment. Our colleagues were divided into different teams: some provided the army with food, some with clothing, and some with weapons. Each team is in direct contact with the Armed Forces and territorial defense. The strength of our managers is logistics and logistical support. We used these qualities to strengthen the volunteer movement in Ukraine. They found the impossible – from boots of the 49th size to trucks and bulletproof vests.  


Secondly, on March 29, 2022, we sent each of our customers a detailed letter with an appeal that began as follows:

  “I want to inform you that the ARENA CS team continues its work. All contracts and tariffs remain valid.

Although our ARENA CS team is currently located in different parts of Ukraine, we remain in constant contact. We have not stopped and do not plan to stop our activities and are fully ready to continue working on your projects and fulfilling orders…”

This letter received a very positive response from most of the recipients, and we started sending orders with various requests. Thus began our recovery as a business. In the end, we managed to save 75% of the team. Always communicate with your employees, colleagues, partners, and customers, provide maximum information, and be open – this principle is called “negotiate” in ARENA CS and always works positively.


Thirdly, we did not earn money for wages because the business did not work for the whole of March, however, together with the top managers, we decided to pay at least the minimum rate to everyone during March and April, and then decide according to the situation. It is important that I contacted the team almost every day, explained the business situation, and talked about positive plans for the future.


In any situation, one should remain human and take care of the team as a family. Our corporate culture is person-oriented. This does not mean that I or my company will provide everything for everyone, but our principle is to provide people during a crisis with information and payment of labor for a certain period. However, I never promise what I cannot deliver. For me, people in business are the significant capital, and to save the team, we always have a separate reserve fund, which has funds for 3 months of wages for all employees. Because with the beginning of the war in 2014, it became clear that there can be many scenarios of uncertainty, so since then, we are always ready for unexpected developments, and the reserve fund is an important component of success. It allows you to stick to your values, save your team and survive. A leader should anticipate such things.

Assistance to IDPs together with Polish partners


– Please tell us more about your social work.


In the early days and days of the war, the focus was on procurement for the Armed Forces. We purchased several thousand bulletproof vests, first aid kits, thermal imagers, satellite phones, walkie-talkies, and more. The budgets were large: I contacted many benefactors and international corporations – my clients. It was challenging to find reliable suppliers. It was especially difficult with bulletproof vests. I connected through various contacts from embassies and the Ministry of Defense. Organized logistics in volunteer groups: everything purchased was taken to Poland, Romania, Moldova, and from there to Ukraine.


No matter how effectively civil society works, it is important to remember how difficult it was then with the free purchase and delivery of most of the goods for the Armed Forces and hospitals.

The war pointed out the shortcomings of our state apparatus. Customs hindered the free transportation of goods for the Armed Forces. When the war was supposed to open the borders to import bulletproof vests, helmets, and cars, officials created new laws and regulations that prevented this. But why? In a warring country, every Ukrainian can freely buy a bulletproof vest, for example. But officials were against such freedom.


When the provision of the army and hospitals reached a relatively stable level, another problem arose – assistance to Ukrainians affected by the war. In the spring of 2022, together with our business colleagues, we founded the Women’s Aid International charity fund. The fund focused its work on several areas: 

1. Humanitarian aid and social services for the elderly and forced migrants in Kyiv’s Dnipro and Darnitsa districts.

2. School of social support. Training of professional workers to accompany the elderly and people with disabilities.

Several thousand have already received help from our Foundation. We provide people with: hygiene kits, products, cosmetics, blankets, thermoses, electric sheets, functional underwear, and more. In addition, we try to care for people’s mental health, and later even organized a concert for displaced people.


– What problems do you see in modern Ukraine that must be solved now?


With independence, Ukraine also inherited the socialist approach of officials to the economy, which migrated from the Soviet Union.

A large number of officials who collect taxes and redistribute them is one of the main features of the socialist approach. The worst thing is that officials often redistribute this money into their own pockets.


Until February 24, Ukraine was the poorest country in Europe. Now it is also destroyed by a full-scale war. But officials continue their philosophy: control is more important than development. Instead of giving Ukrainians economic freedom and thus speeding up the development of the economy, officials continue to insist on the existence of more than 1,000 regulatory instruments: permits, licenses, approvals, etc.


The Ukrainian authorities should change their approach to the economy: abolish the maximum number of state regulations and implement all the ideas of a free economy in Ukraine. This should be done now during the war. Ukrainian business works even in these terrible conditions, but there will be more opportunities in deregulation and a free economy.

Speech at the Event Industry Forum in Lviv


Business is money; money is ammunition for our defenders.


Another big problem is the number of officials. There are more than 1 million of them in Ukraine. The State Committee of Statistics website officially lists about 200,000 civil servants. However, not all officials in Ukraine have the status of civil servants. Dmytro Dubilet once tried to count all the officials in Ukraine and failed.

Our country does not need 1 million officials. Instead of them, it would be better for the state to feed 1 million armed soldiers.


An example of the ineffectiveness of the work of such a large number of civil servants is the spring collapse at customs when people began to import cars from abroad without duty. The problem then was not a large number of people but the inability and unwillingness of officials to organize an effective border crossing. Then officials began to say that many cars were in the luxury segment. However, this was not true. The officials only tried to return the duty and bribe at customs.

That is why the business began to fight against such officials, who Hetmantsev, with all his initiatives, now represents.


The war exacerbated the shortcomings of the socialist approach. But the officials, instead of changing the approach, tighten the screws of business even more.


– What would you say if you could address all Ukrainians?


Grandiose world changes are occurring now, and Ukrainians are at the center of events. In a stormy stream, you have to get into a boat and board with the stream; you have to live and not postpone life for later. Wish and plan!

Everything is possible. After all, the only limit to your desires and life is the possibilities of your imagination and the degree of your commitment to making your dreams come true.

Set big and ambitious goals; they will be a source of energy!