How we prepared the first Rust Ukraine Conference in 2023 during the ongoing war

08 February, 2024

3 min read

Last updated on 25 May, 2024

On 8 April 2023 the first Rust Ukraine Conference happened despite the ongoing war. We have collected more than 250 000 UAH on tickets (around 6200€). All money was donated to Ukrainian Armed Forces through volunteers. There were more than 10 presenters including English-speaking ones on all topics from IoT and Web to Blockchains and Database Engineering. Even Rust Foundation noticed our efforts and made a post about that.

I will tell the story of how it has happened from the point of view of a person, who sources speakers. I have also participated in review talks for some of the speakers, but I can’t say I did much there. All those people were more skilled and experienced Rust Engineers than I was, so I mostly helped them with my feedback as a plain listener. The conference was the product of work of many people, a lot of them were involved much more than I was. So this story is not complete, but it’s how it happened from my side and I hope it may be interesting to those who want to do some work for the engineering community.

I don’t remember well how the idea was conceived. We have an internal community of Rust Ukraine volunteers / activists and I noticed the message about the conference started to circulate there frequently. I was really curious about the project and wanted to give it a boost, but wasn’t sure how. I don’t consider myself such a skilled person to make a talk, so I needed something else. I’ve already relocated to Berlin and I thought that I may use that as leverage and connect with some people in Europe and help bring some speakers to the conference.

Scrolling through Linkedin, I’ve noticed once in the news that the Apollo GraphQL team released their Router for GraphQL Federation Project in Rust and at this time it was a bold move to adopt Rust in such a context. I’ve started to look for someone from the Apollo Engineering team to present at our Conference and share what challenges they faced during Rust adoption in the company. I’ve found Jeremy Lempereur, who was Senior Rust Engineer in Apollo at that time. We’ve connected and after some persuasion from my side (not much!) Jeremy agreed to give it a try.

It was our first touch point between Ukrainian speaking engineers and English speaking ones. We had countless meetings with Jeremy since then and he was always attentive, willing to understand and dedicated to make the best presentation possible. In the beginning there was not much confidence from me that it would work, but with time we learnt to understand each other better. Kostyantin and Stepan from Ukraine contributed greatly in preparation, they did all the hardest work and drove the project from the beginning to end.

The second English-speaking speaker I’ve connected with was a person from Switzerland. I won’t enclose much details in the article because up to a week before the Conference we received news from them that they wouldn't be able to present because their employer restricted them to do so. This restriction came after they discovered that we were raising money for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This person has an unique expertise – intersection of Rust, Python and biology. I thought that their presentation may inspire more scientists to adopt and experiment with Rust more. It was really frustrating for us to get the news.

Before the conference we’ve discovered a major issue - we couldn’t find a platform where to host it. It must have been online, accessible and for possibly cheap price or discount options since we are just a group of volunteers. We couldn’t find any platforms which could fit our requirements. It added a lot of anxiety to preparation. I am not sure how this question was solved. I assume someone just spent their own money to buy the platform access for us. Conference was hosted in Zoom in the end.

We had paid tickets, but it wasn’t really a ticket you must pay for. We accepted proofs of money transfer to a volunteer organisations, which we trust. We are not involved in routing the money.

I bought a ticket myself and enjoyed the Conference the same as every visitor. The audience was engaged. We didn’t expect so many people attending. The sum of money we have raised was beyond any of our expectations.

We have recordings of talks available on YouTube. Most of them are in Ukrainian, but there are few available in English as well. This is one of them:

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Troy Köhler