My friend’s apartment renovation

This is a story about division of labor.

My friend sold one apartment and bought a smaller one in Kyiv. During a recent visit, she complained to me about the contractors. They would argue with her about details like the color of the walls, insisting they were right. They’d be late, or drunk. One guy smoked pot and talked to her all day long, then apologized for not working. (He brought his own pot.)

So what’s the deal?

Ukrainians are famous all over the world for their building skills. A cousin of mine travels as far as Portugal and Moscow to work. I know of a small businessman of Ukrainian descent in the US whose making a killing and building a great reputation for quality. It seems like every other Ukrainian I meet is building or renovating his own home.

Why the hell haven’t Ukrainians figured out how to sell their labor to each other?

Here are some possibilities:

1. This is a low trust society.

2. There is a severe lack of entrepreneurial talent. It all fled, or was killed or deported. A massive bureaucratic burden prevents its re-emergence.

3. Ukrainians are suspicious. This is a golden opportunity for people who know how to build brands. The success of brands in Ukraine is obvious.

4. Ukrainians can’t afford each other’s labor. (This seems unlikely, as there is great desperation to work.)

What I hope more Ukrainians realize is that a division of labor is necessary for wealth creation. If you’re growing your own food and building your own house because it’s gratifying, fine, but you’re not going to be as rich as someone who does one thing very, very well and sells it.


  1. Ed K

    Look into mirrow.

    This problem is why some people become officers in
    military, in charge.

    Maybe you should supervise the project? Where has all that
    leadership training gone?

    I would suggest those not being productive or who challenge
    plan should be sent away, fired. There is no good reason to
    waste time and resources on non productivity. You have
    illustrated that there are good and competent works around.
    Move along…

    Maybe this is part of answer to ‘diaspora’ and holodomor, etc.
    Those with leadership DNA left or were killed by soviets.

    I await Elmer’s comments on my reply.

  2. Andrii Drozda

    Creating brand and advertise it demands to work officially. While being on black market is sometimes more profitable in Ukraine.

  3. elmer

    Roman, to start out, there is a typo – renovation has only one “n.”

    What you overlooked is this – the sovoks created some dumb fuck bastards in today’s Zookraine.

    Have you not seen the stories about teachers and factory workers and others in Zookraine going to work, working without pay, in the hopes of getting paid in the future by some oligarch?

    They are selling their labor for nothing – it is an upside down, bass ackwards society.

    They sell their votes for a little package of buckwheat and stale tea bags.

    Here’s the explanation – why do you think you get horrible service in restaurants?

    For the same reason that the idiots were arguing with your friend about the color of the walls – they want to be large and in charge.

    They have no concept of pleasing the customer. They have no concept of courtesy – except when they want something from you.

    Service to them is demeaning and degrading.

    They want to tell you what to do.

    The attitude is – “I want to go look at the flowers in the zoo, so it’s OK for me to show up late for work, or to get drunk.”

    It’s as simple as that – the sovoks created some brutally sick people psychologically, who were used to getting around the sovok system by going underground.

    Now they have a sovok mafia system, they don’t know how to change it, everyone is frustrated, and looks for shortcuts. As I’ve said before – there is a huge underground economy. Huge.

    That’s why people leave.

    In Zookraine, they want what people have in the US and England and Canada and Germany and the Czech Republic and Spain and Poland – but the idiots can’t figure out how to make it happen in Zookraine.

    Especially in view of the sovok mafia oligarchs and the sovok mafia system.

    Plus – Zookrainians will argue about anything and everything. The day is not complete without arguing.

    Roman, even when Zookrainians go overseas to build something, they argue with whoever hired them, among other things. They “know better.” I’ve seen it.

  4. Roman

    Great post, Elmer, but I don’t share you pessimism. Service is definitely improving. The young don’t consider it demeaning as the Soviet generation did.


Leave a Reply