On February 24, 2022, Anton Yakovenko woke up to missile explosions outside his home in Kyiv, Ukraine. He and his wife lived on the 12th floor of their apartment building, where they had good view of the city. “It was the scariest moment in my life,” he said. Yakovenko knew, and it was soon officially confirmed, that Russia had invaded Ukraine, a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war that began in 2014.
“No matter how I or someone else describes it, you cannot fully comprehend it. Nothing can prepare you for what it is like to be in a shelled city,” Yakovenko said.
The 31-year-old and his wife Kristina left Kyiv the next day and went to Zhovkva, a small town close to the Poland border. There, for the first month of the war, they lived in half of a restaurant turned refugee shelter, sleeping on an improvised bed created by moving two benches together. Yakovenko continued to work while sheltering in Zhovkya, keeping a gas mask close by because there were real concerns that Russia might start using chemical weapons. After the Russian army retreated from Kyiv and the northern part of the country, Yakovenko and his wife made it to Vinnytsia, Yakovenko’s hometown in west-central Ukraine, where they lived in their family’s small garden house for a month. The couple then moved back to Kyiv before relocating to the United States on December 14 and settling in the greater Atlanta area, where Yakovenko joined the team at Eclipse’s Duluth headquarters.
Yakovenko had been working with Eclipse as an independent contractor since 2019, recruited by Eclipse’s Mike Irby after they worked together at DGN Games. Eclipse recognized how valuable Yakovenko’s contributions, experience, and skills were and worked hard to help him obtain a work visa, relocate to the U.S., and become a full-time employee. Eclipse retained an external immigration attorney to help with the visa process, and through a stroke of luck, Yakovenko’s application was selected from a lottery. Eclipse Gaming’s Senior Director of Human Resources Steve McDonald said, “We’re delighted to have Anton and his wife safe in the U.S. and to have Anton’s expertise with us on a daily basis.”
Yakovenko’s contributions to Eclipse have been many, including Unity development, photon, core, and game framework. He worked on the Cash Arcade games, Big Shake Neon™ and Big Shake Carnival™, which he said was one of the biggest and most interesting projects he has been involved in with Eclipse. The games
While he, his wife Kristina, and their dog Muha love life in the U.S., their heart is still in Ukraine. Yakovenko’s mother, grandfather, and mother-in-law still live in Ukraine, where because of the ongoing war and attacks on the electricity infrastructure, they often must make do with four to eight hours of electricity a day; cook using portable gas stoves; and struggle to stay warm. Yakovenko said, “At least they are safe; far from active fighting and engagements.”
Yakovenko and his wife want to stay in the U.S., where they love mountain biking, hiking, and enjoying all that the Atlanta Metro area has to offer.
He is grateful for America’s aid to his home country. “The U.S. is the biggest supporter of Ukraine, and without this support, Ukrainians would still fight, but would lose pretty quickly. We are thankful for the help. The most important thing is victory for Ukraine.”