Igor Golubchik of Resilience Entertainment: Five Life and Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience During The Russia-Ukraine War

Written by Authority Magazine Editorial Staff

Published in : Authority Magazine

It’s great if you have time to analyze and contemplate a calculated move. But if you don’t have the luxury to do that in a critical situation — you must tell yourself to go with your first gut feeling and just make the move. Quick and decisive. Even if it turns out to be a wrong decision later on — it’s ok.

- I had the pleasure of interviewing Igor Golubchick of Resilience Entertainment.

Igor has more than 24 years of experience in concert business. He organizes concerts in North America (more than 25 cities) for such Ukrainian A-list artists as Verka Serduchka, Okean Elzy, Tina Karol, Boombox, The Hard Kiss, 5'nizza, Monatik, Kalush Orchestra, Alyona Alyona, Quest Pistols, and others, as well as some of the top anti-putin Russian artists currently in exhile — Zemfira, Boris Grebenshikov, DDT, Little Big, Slava Komissarenko, and others. In 2022 year Resilience Entertainment donated over $500,000 to Ukraine relief funds and NGO’s from charity concerts.

- Thank you so much for doing this with us despite the very challenging circumstances. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

Born in Odesa, Ukraine, immigrated to the US at the age of 14 back in 1992, right as the Soviet Union collapsed. Just an average kid going to an average Soviet school. I started my first business at 13 washing cars after school and on weekends — we would use our schools’ open playground to lure drivers in by drawing big signs in color chalk on the ground, it would say something like “best car wash for 1 ruble” and a big arrow… all we needed is a constant flow of runners with buckets of water to and from nearby water hydrant, almost all apartment buildings’ courtyards had one sticking out of the ground. I had a dozen kids running for water and washing cars with sponges. There were no commercial carwashes as such. Everyone was happy and making a few rubles meant movies, ice cream, and chewing gum. Just to put it into perspective — one stick of US gum was equal to one full car wash. Also, in 1990–1991 in Odesa going “to the movies” meant buying admission to one of many spaces around the city that had 20–30 random chairs set up in a room or office space with a regular old television set hooked up to a VCR, watching pirated and dubbed American movies. Watching American movies opened up a whole new magical world where everything was so much different… just a couple of years later I would land in Chicago, about to turn 15.

At 18, while in college, I was hosting a radio show, publishing a magazine, hosting and running a community website, DJ’ing, and organizing parties. At 19 I took my first shot at producing concerts. In ten years I was publishing multiple weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines, daily radio and weekly TV shows, websites, running a tech company, and producing dozens of concerts per year.

- Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I can’t say I have one, but I can tell you that the concept of resilience (consequently the name we adopted for our current company) is something I have understood and related to from a very young age. I knew that you don’t give up no matter what, that you stand up for what you believe in even if you know you’re about to get beat up or punished, and that when you fall (and you will, often) you get right back up. I think I felt it and inherently knew it early on, perhaps from a combination of adversities, reading lots of books, constantly present antisemitism, common street fights, just something a regular Jewish kid or a teenager pretty much faced one way or another growing up in the Soviet Union in the ’80s and early 90’s. At 11, I went to a Martial Arts place that was technically illegal and unofficial back then. There, I would get beat up pretty badly three times per week by a bigger stronger group of guys, before or after the actual classes, that’s just what they did to all new people (kids and adults equally) just for fun. Most would not come back after a few times. I would fight back each time and come back the next day like nothing happened. That continued for a while, but in one year no one would dare to touch me, moreover, I would not let them touch any new kids coming in. At 14 I was running these classes (teenagers and adults mixed) under the instructors’ supervision while he was absent. And he was absent a lot as he was a bodyguard for some really bad guys as far as I understood much later in time. It was the early 90s in the Soviet Union, a really bad time when the future oligarchs began their rise to power.

- Are you working on any exciting new projects now with your business? How do you think that will help people?

We are constantly working on new projects, one I can share is gate.org it’s a simple service to directly help specific Ukrainian families. Our focus is on helping Ukraine for the foreseeable future, as even after the war ends there’s so much long-lasting aftermath to deal with. With Resilience Entertainment we just completed a number of very large shows in US and Canada by some of the top artists from Ukraine, with tens of thousands of people in attendance and we are on track to produce and promote 200 concerts and charity events in the next two years.

- Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main part of our interview. I’m sure it might be challenging, but do you feel comfortable telling us a bit about your experience during the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

I have no problem sharing. It’s a lot, but I will try to condense it. I was in Mexico, late February of 2022, on the beach with my kids, before a long concert season that was supposed to start in early March with a lot of touring, one Ukrainian group after another. Everything is planned out and set for a whole year. Shock, disbelief, and chaos hit me two nights before the invasion when reading the news and talking to people on the ground in Ukraine made it clear that it actually might happen… And the next morning, Feb 22nd, it happened… rockets, bombs, chaos, death. The next few days were a nonstop vortex of phone calls, finding out if family, people I know and work with, are alive, trying to help with evacuations through insane multistep routes, trying to organize help, communicating with many people I didn’t know at all trying to link things up. It would be something along the lines of “Hi, my name is so and so, I’m in Philadelphia, we have 10 boxes of medical supplies, someone gave me your number, can you help with getting it to Ukraine?”, then after several other calls, you’d find someone to connect with in Baltimore who could organize space on a cargo plane going to Poland, and then several people from all over the country would link up to pay for transportation, and then you’d need to organize someone to take it from Poland to Ukraine by car or truck, and so on. Countless calls, connections, and deals with people you’ve never met with before. It was an amazing unity and trust among thousands of people in US and Canada. After a month or so, it would be containers full of supplies, warehouses were established, NGO’s formed, and thousands of volunteers working day and night. It was never enough.. it is still not enough a year and a half later.

We’ve evacuated my mother-in-law, took her several days to cross multiple borders and escape. Needless to say, all my concert and touring plans evaporated, and lots of money and time were lost, although, all that means nothing in comparison to the death, despair, and destruction happening in Ukraine.

Later on that year, we started what we now call a “Cultural Front” for Ukraine and resumed touring artists in US and Canada. Since then we have organized close to 200 concerts and events and have helped raise over a million dollars.

- Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during the War? What “take away” did you learn from that story?

Look, there are so many stories I could share, but unfortunately, most of them are very gruesome… I’ve met a soldier buried alive for hours after a bomb exploded nearby, he was lucky someone found him and dug him out hours later, he lost both of his feet. I’ve met a gymnast who lost her leg and is now helping others. Most of these stories are very rough. Their stories will be told in time.

I can tell you about a group of volunteers in Chicago, who would fly back and forth from Chicago to Warsaw, each taking up to 20! large duffle bags of supplies, including bulletproof vests, blood-stopping tourniquets, and helmets. It would be collected and packed at a volunteer place in Chicago, they would buy regular arifare tickets and take all these bags with them (pay for it as well), fly to Warsaw, meet the other volunteers at the airport, drop of the bags, fly back to pick the next load and repeat. Nonstop, until they’d run out of money. These are regular people. They organized in a few days and started doing it. By now it’s a large operation sending millions of dollars worth of supplies to Ukraine. The takeaway from this is that every small action matters. You don’t need to wait for a call, or think, “well, there are these large organizations and even governments — they are probably doing something, there’s no difference that I can make really….” Every action matters, anyone can make a difference.

- We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during the War? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.

I have the honor of knowing many people I personally consider heroes. Musicians and singers, taking up arms and going to the front lines to defend their country, models, and dancers turning nurses and volunteers, families saving their children hiding underground for weeks with little food or water, and artists performing relentlessly all over the world for donations to help their country, people feeding and rescuing animals under enemy shelling, the president of Ukraine whom I have had the pleasure of working with multiple times for years prior, who famously said “I don’t need a ride, I need ammo” when Western leaders were pressuring him to evacuate from Kyiv, at the very moment when everything was indicating the capitol would fall and he would be killed along with others, as the invasion was advancing and within very close reach…

- Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?

To me, a hero is someone who turns out to be stoic and resilient when facing extreme situations while doing something to save others, help others, and overcome their natural fear. Sacrificing their own well-being to help or save others. I think it’s impossible to predict who can do it. It’s impossible to know if you yourself can do it. It only happens at the moment. Of course, it doesn’t have to be as extreme as at war. There are so many people being heroes in everyday life, without anyone noticing really. Someone taking care of a very sick child in the family is a hero, someone who volunteers at a local charity is a hero.

- Can you share with our readers 5 Leadership or Life Lessons that you learned from your experience during the Russia-Ukraine war”? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)

Sometimes you need to trust complete strangers and it’s actually ok.

This is not something you could practice under normal circumstances, but in an emergency, you might not have other options.

Sometimes people you trust and count on will fold under pressure, perhaps even betray you or sell you out. It’s ok, it’s not you, it’s them. Let it go, don’t get fixated on it, and move on.

It’s great if you have time to analyze and contemplate a calculated move. But if you don’t have the luxury to do that in a critical situation — you must tell yourself to go with your first gut feeling and just make the move. Quick and decisive. Even if it turns out to be a wrong decision later on — it’s ok.

Sticking to simple routines fades out chaos and panic and allows you to keep it together mentally and physically when everything around you comes crashing down.

Being able to quickly separate things that are within your control and things that are not. Focusing only on the first. This is a skill you can develop and practice in everyday life.

- What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?

I’d say resilience and perseverance again. Mental stamina that can be utilized to follow basic survival steps in a crisis. I’m not an expert to say if this is something that can be learned in a class. Sometimes trained people fold quickly, and regular people turn heroes.

- When you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Lots of people come to mind, too many to choose from. I would refer here to President Zelensky again, a very talented comedian and actor turned real hero for his country. Speaking from my personal experience, his transformation is remarkable and his story will be in world history books.

- What advice would you give to other leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

There are thousands of books written by thousands of truly distinguished experts on this subject. I can only tell you what works for me — being able to inspire others, finding great people who get to be as inspired as you are by what you’re doing, deligating and allowing them to shine and grow, no matter how high or low in the chain of command they currently are.

- None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I can’t really single anyone out. I can honestly say I never had a single mentor or someone who helped and guided me continuously. I would, however, say all those, collectively, who had screwed me over, said no to me, or tried to hurt me in some way along the way. That helped me a lot. It’s the mentality of everything being a positive lesson learned, every problem is an opportunity.

- You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I really don’t think in these terms. I have no goal of being a great influencer. I think if you do what you do diligently and honestly, and it happens to influence or help someone else, a few people perhaps — you should consider yourself very lucky and happy, but should stay humble and continue doing it day in and day out. That’s it. If other good things happen as a result of it along the way — ok, good.

- What can our readers do to help the refugees caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

Learn more about this war, and understand it’s significance on a global scale. How it affects almost everyone, including here in United States. Donate to any reputable NGO of your liking that is specifically helping Ukraine. I would ask your readers to check out Gate.org as well.

- Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

Ari Emanuel. I really wish to have an opportunity to learn from him. Besides, I’ve already met just about everyone else I really really wanted to meet :)

- Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.