After a long day of discussions and panels at the 6th Kyiv Post Tiger Conference on Dec. 5, it was time to dim the lights at the Hilton Kyiv and enjoy the Top 30 Under 30 award ceremony for young Ukrainian leaders.

The Kyiv Post founded the award a year ago to celebrate those who have won fame, success and acclaim at an early age. During the first contest, the newspaper picked the 2016 winners. The 2016 winners picked out who to award this year.

The Victor Pinchuk Foundation sponsored the award this year.

The list of winners includes activists, athletes, politicians, volunteers, soldiers, entrepreneurs and journalists.

Check out full stories about each Top 30 Under 30 winner here.

The Kyiv Post called for nominations via social media and printed publications. The ceremony started off with a performance by Ukrainian indie rock band Krut and continued with greetings from last year’s winners.


Yuliya Tychkivska, the executive director of The Aspen Institute Kyiv and the winner of the award in 2016, was one of them.

“We are very proud of the new team of Top 30 Under 30,” she said. “Each one is prominently brilliant,” she added.

The winners of the Kyiv Post’s Top 30 Under 30 award pose after the ceremony. (Pavlo Podufalov) (Oleg Petrasiuk)

Yaroslav Azhnyuk, the co-founder of Petcube, a company producing gadgets for pet owners to watch and play with pets remotely, was one of the first ones to receive an award.

Being a part of a world-famous brand, he said that it’s important for Ukraine to have more companies that create products that are valuable globally, and that promote Ukraine globally.

“I believe in coming years we will see many more products like this,” he said.

Azhnyuk was given an award by the deputy head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine, Dmytro Shymkiv.

“It’s innovations known around the world that are invested in,” he said.

A touching moment occurred when Liza Smith (Kostyrkina), a film director, talked about her colleague, Ukrainian film maker Oleg Sentsov, who has been convicted and is now serving a 20-year term in Russia, reminding that anyone could be in his place.


“I want us to do everything to make him free again.”

Her documentary film “School No. 3,” about the life of teenagers in Donbas received the Grand Prix in the Generation 14+ category at the 67th Berlinale Film Festival in February.

She believes that Ukrainians can create a positive image of their country through art, cinema and science.

“That’s why we have to create an environment for young people to live, work and create here,” she said.

Smith received an award from Iryna Slavinska, a journalist, member of the Board of Directors and Editorial Board of Hromadske Radio, gender coordinator of the campaign against sexism Povaha and also a winner of the last year’s award.

She said that Smith “gives a voice to those who don’t have it.”

Oleksandr Todorchuk, the founder of UAnimals, a campaign that advocates animal rights in Ukraine, gave an Oscar-worthy speech quoting Mahatma Gandhi and John Lennon.

He said that watching thousands of people coming out for animal rights rallies all over Ukraine makes him believe that humanity unites the country.

Todorchuk emphasized that it’s important not to expect the change from somebody else but act.


“Just change this crazy world right now.”

He said he was sure that the fight for animal rights saves not only animals but also people and finished his speech with a straightforward message.

“Kindness rules. Cruelty sucks.”

Bohdan Chaban, the co-founder of “Donetsk is Ukraine,” a patriotic movement that organized pro-government demonstrations in Donetsk, and a volunteer who fought in the east of Ukraine receives an award from Yulia Kovaliv, the head of the Office of the National Council of Reforms. (Oleg Petrasiuk)

Roman Waschuk, the Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine, gave the award to Pavlo Budaievskyi, an athlete and a soldier, who competed at the Invictus Games in Toronto this fall and who won half of Ukraine’s gold medals.

“Canada this year hosted the Invictus Games. Ukraine was there for the first time but it was also a star-turn for Ukraine,” Waschuk said.

Like many other winners, Budaievskyi brought up the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine that was unleashed by Russia in 2014 during his speech.

“The games are about dedicated men and women who serve their countries sacrificing their lives to protect them.”

He also shared his feelings about the international adaptive multi-sport event and Ukraine’s result.

“We are a great nation and we can compete with more progressive countries.”

Bohdan Chaban, the co-founder of “Donetsk Is Ukraine,” a patriotic movement that organized pro-government demonstrations in Donetsk, and a volunteer who fought in the east, was one of the last winners to receive the award.

Chaban continued the war topic and ended his speech on an optimistic note.


“I hope that I will put this award on my table at my home in Donetsk under the Ukrainian flag.”

Kyiv Post’s Top 30 Under 30 winners

Yaroslav Azhnyuk

Together with his partners he co-founded a startup in 2012 called Petcube, making a gadget that pet owners could use to watch and play with their pets remotely. Since then, Petcube has become more than just a local tech startup – it is now a successful company that works in the Internet of Things field. It has offices in the United States, China, and Ukraine, and raised $14 million in funding. The team is now devoting a lot of time and effort to research animal behavior ahead of developing new products.

Mariya Berlinska

When Russia unleashed its war in eastern Ukraine, she switched from being a student and a future historian to an army volunteer, a drone pilot, and recently – a movie producer. She heads the Center for Aerial Reconnaissance, where service people can learn how to operate unmanned aerial vehicles. She raises money and supplies drones to the army. She is also producing a documentary about women serving in the Donbas.

Solomiia Bobrovska

In 2013-2014 she was involved in EuroMaidan SOS, a self-organized group of activists. After the revolution, she served as an assistant to Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych, and worked on an advocacy campaign for Ukraine to join the Rome Statute. When Mikheil Saakashvili became Odesa governor in May 2015, she became his advisor first, later moving up to become one of the deputy governors. When her boss left, she became Ukraine’s youngest acting governor. Now she is back to the third sector, having co-founded a non-government organization in Kyiv – the Center for Political and Legal Studies. She wants to focus on electoral studies and women’s rights.


Nataliya Boyko

She had a job at a consulting company in Germany, but desperately wanted to go back to Ukraine. She gave up her contract in Germany and started to send out CVs to Ukrainian companies. Dmytro Shymkiv invited her to work at the Presidential Administration, first as a support manager for the National Reforms Council, and then as an advisor. Within two years, she was appointed deputy energy and coal industry minister.  

Pavlo Budayevsky

He is both an athlete and a soldier; and he has been fighting for victory for Ukraine as both. Fighting for the city of Ilovaisk, he and his fellow soldiers were encircled by Russian-backed forces and besieged for many days. He was wounded later, and had to undergo a difficult recuperation. This fall he was competing in Canada in the Invictus Games, a sports event for wounded soldiers from up to two dozen countries. The Ukrainian team won a total of 14 medals, including eight golds. He won half of the country’s gold medals, competing in four separate swimming events.


Bohdan Chaban

After the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine, he co-founded “Donetsk is Ukraine,” a patriotic movement that organized pro-government demonstrations in Donetsk even after it was seized by Russian-led separatist forces. He fought against them first in the streets of the occupied Donetsk, and then, after leaving Donetsk, in the war-affected areas of Donetsk Oblast: He was a volunteer fighter of the Shakhtarsk Battalion and took part in several big battles, including in Pisky and Illovaisk. Lately he has been helping other veterans by providing them jobs and helping them start their own business in the Veterano Family Chain, which now includes three pizzerias, a bakery and 11 coffee shops all over Ukraine.

Maksym Chernysh

He started his career in military in the age of 19, signing a contract to serve in the reconnaissance unit. He proved to be a good soldier, and was later sent for further training at the Odesa Military Academy. In the spring of 2016, as a lieutenant, he was given command of a reconnaissance company deployed in the war zone and had to lead old war campaigners in their thirties and even forties. And for taking part in the defense of the front-line city of Maryinka, President Petro Poroshenko awarded him the Order For Courage.

Vitaliy Diatlenko

Seven years ago, when U.S. taxi service startup Uber was still operating in trial mode, his team created Uklon, a Ukrainian online service that connects taxi drivers and customers. Uklon today operates in 10 Ukrainian cities and the Georgian capital Tbilisi, remaining dominant on Ukrainian market, and earning money, not losing it.

Rimma El Joueidi

Almost a year ago she co-founded Teach for Ukraine, part of an international program that trains young professionals and graduates to become teachers. The program selects and hires motivated young people with excellent knowledge of any school subject, who, after six weeks of training, spend at least two years teaching in a rural school in either Kyiv, Lviv or Kharkiv oblasts.

Illia Filipov

He is the founder and CEO of online education studio EdEra, which makes online courses, interactive books, and materials for students, adults and businesses. EdEra makes various courses for students to help them pass their final exams. One of the most popular ones, “Life hacks of the Ukrainian Language,” has been certified by Ukrainian Education Ministry.
The ministry and EdEra are also working together on a course for primary school teachers who need to upgrade their qualifications in line with the new law on education that was introduced this fall.

Margo Gontar

When Russia invaded eastern Ukraine and illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, she, together with a group of instructors and students of the Kyiv-Mohyla Journalism School in Kyiv, launched a project to track and debunk the false news about Ukraine and the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution, which was coming mostly from Russia. Since then, has grown into a cross-border fact-checking platform in 11 languages and a huge body of knowledge about Kremlin propaganda that other nations can learn from. She is the face of the project, hosting its weekly TV program.

Roman Hryshchuk

In his student years, he headed a university KVN comedy team. After the graduation they realized they wanted to keep working together, so they created Mamahohotala studio in 2013, which produces comedy shows, writes scripts and shoots series and films. In 2017 Mamahohotala premiered their first feature film “Infoholik,” which was screened in cinemas all over Ukraine. The film’s box office takings have reached Hr 5 million ($192,000).

Liza Smith (Kostyrkina)

She is a film director whose documentary film “School No. 3,” co-directed by German theatre director Georg Genoux, received the Grand Prix in the Generation 14+ category at the 67th Berlinale Film Festival in February. The film tells the story of 13 teenagers growing up in Ukraine’s war-torn Donbas.

Alyona Kryvulyak

Having started at the human rights watchdog La Strada as an intern in 2011, she played a vital role in launching two national hotlines that offer free counseling and legal consulting to victims of domestic violence, discrimination, and human trafficking. Besides managing the department of hotlines, she serves as a consultant for the children’s hot line.

Alexandra Kutas

She was born paralyzed from the waist down, but decided to enter the hyper-competitive industry of modeling. This year she signed her first contract with a modeling agency and spent two-and-a-half months in New Delhi, India, having photoshoots and taking part in a catwalk show. In Ukraine, Kutas has also had some modelling achievements: She served as the emcee of Ukrainian Fashion Week in 2014, and last year had a photographic exhibition dedicated to her, as well as a catwalk show at designer Fedir Vozianov’s fashion show.  

Darya Leshchenko

She began in Kyiv as a customer service representative, working in tech. She then set out, with a group of other people, to found a separate company for that provides outsourced customer service support for tech companies. Since then, SupportYourApp has grown to acquire clients in 22 countries around the world.

Iryna Lytovchenko

She has been a volunteer since 18, and lived in Kenya and India for three months, teaching local kids English. Later, working in PR, she became the co-founder of Tabletochki, a Ukrainian charity fund that helps children with leukemia. Since then, the charity has raised over $3.3 million. She has also been an advisor to acting Health Minister Ulana Suprun for six months, and is leaving Tabletochki’s team soon to take a job in Ukraine’s Health Ministry, although will remain on the charity fund’s board and continue fundraising.

Bogdan Logvynenko

He has already written three novels, which have been published in Ukraine and abroad. He has worked as a journalist and editor for Ukrainian media outlets, and has organized several cultural festivals to promote Ukrainian musicians abroad. As an activist, he has investigated corruption in consulates of Ukraine across the world as part of the “No Visa to Ukraine” project, and won a Transparency International award for it. Last year, he launched the travel show “Ukraїner.”  It aims to show Ukraine’s positive side, its people, and how Ukrainians see their country, while the international and Ukrainian media focus on the war and corruption.

Oleksandr Maksymenko

He served with the 25th brigade before being assigned to the Intelligence Center of Ukraine’s Armed Forces in 2013. When Russia unleashed its war in Ukraine’s east, he went to Donbas. He says he doesn’t need any motivation to go to the war zone, because it’s his duty. He was awarded the state Bohdan Khmelnytsky medal “For Personal Courage” for carrying out a successful military mission in Donetsk Oblast in 2015.

Natalya Mazharova

When in 2009 she organized the first Vyshyvanka Festival, a handicraft fair and a march of people wearing traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirts, in Odesa, some 5,000 people joined the one-day event aimed at celebrating the 18th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence. This summer, 120,000 people attended the five-day-long Vyshyvanka Festival. The numbers show that she is achieving her main goal – to debunk stereotypes that Odesa is not “very Ukrainian” and its residents aren’t “really patriotic.”

Dmytro Schebetyuk

He co-founded the Dostupno Ua initiative, which tests various venues in Kyiv for their accessibility to wheelchair users, and films video blogs about infrastructure and life of people with disabilities in Ukraine. A traveler and a swimmer, he says his main goal is to show that using a wheelchair is not an obstacle to having a full life.

Yulia Shevchuk

When the EuroMaidan Revolution erupted in late 2013, she quickly joined in the protests. She worked at the protesters’ information center and once helped an old friend who was wounded during clashes with the police. Later, she underwent first aid training, and in 2015 started traveling to the war zone as a paramedic. She has been there at least 10 times, and saved the lives of dozens of Ukrainian soldiers.

Elina Svitolina

Born into a family of athletes, she started playing tennis at the age of 5, following in the footsteps of her older brother. Now the Ukrainian athlete has dozens of victories and titles on her list, and in September, she set a new personal and national record when she rose to No. 3 in the ranking of the Women’s Tennis Association. She finished the season at No. 6 and remains Ukraine’s best female professional tennis player.

Oleksandr Todorchuk

He launched a public relations agency that focuses on cultural and social projects. Last year he started UAnimals, a Facebook campaign that advocates animal rights in Ukraine. They are cooperating with Ukrainian lawmakers to develop animal rights legislation. One of the laws, which bans mobile circuses, zoos and exhibitions with wild animals, was passed by parliament in June and came into force in August.

Oleksandr Toporivsky

He was elected head of the village of Blahodatne in western Ukraine’s Volyn Oblast in 2015, becoming one of the youngest heads of village councils in Ukraine. He believes that the village’s problems have become his own, and he’s positive he can solve them. He’s always in search of grants, and thanks to those the community raised money to fix three roads, install street lights and build two outdoor, custom-made gyms in Blahodatne.

Roman Tychkivsky

After studying in Ukraine, United States and Spain, Tychkivsky founded the Ukrainian Leadership Academy in 2015 in Kyiv. Today it also has branches in Lviv, Mykolaiv, Poltava, and Kharkiv. The academy offers a 10-month program of personal and social development to Ukrainian high-school graduates aged 16-18. Program participants study the liberal arts, do sports, and take trips abroad.

Oleg Verniaiev

This gymnast has won more than 50 medals at the Olympics, Universiades, European and world championships, and the European Games. He has become a real celebrity in Ukraine after winning gold on the parallel bars and silver in the overall men’s competition at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and has used his newfound fame and influence to press for better training conditions for gymnasts and other athletes.

Stepan Veselovskyi

He has built up the biggest local IT community in Ukraine, Lviv IT Cluster, that has brought together almost 70 IT companies to improve the quality of Ukraine’s IT education, promote the country’s image on the global scene, and build infrastructure for IT specialists. Once a year he also co-organizes Lviv IT Arena, one of the biggest tech events in Eastern Europe and the biggest one in Ukraine.

Hordyslava Yemets

She is a pediatric anesthesiologist in the Medical Center for Pediatric Cardiology of the Ministry of Health in Kyiv, specializing in taking care of children up to one year old, and newborns. On a regular day, she works for eight hours, or up to 24 hours if it’s a night call. But as her hours depend on the number of operations scheduled, her working time has no set limits, and she can be called to duty anytime.

Denys Zhadanov

He was only 19 when he started to work part-time at Readdle – a small software company established by his elder brother and his friends. Ten years later, he is the vice-president of the Odesa-based company that now has 120 people on staff producing mobile applications that are sold on Apple’s App Store. The company focuses on time management and productivity apps. It already has over 75 million downloads worldwide.

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