CNBC reported today that a 20-year-old refugee fled Ukraine and the only cash he had with him was the Bitcoin he had on his pen drive. The Ukrainian, Fadey, is not alone, as many people rely on crypto to help them cross European borders.
Due to problems with banking transactions and long queues at ATMs, many do not have access to money. However, Fadey was able to make a P2P Bitcoin transaction with a friend for $600 worth of the Polish currency, zloty. He then used the money to buy a bus ticket to Poland. Fadey told CNBC,
“I couldn’t withdraw money at all because the queues at the ATMs were so long, and I couldn’t wait that long.”
Decentralization empowers people in dark times.
This highlights a point we raised earlier in the conflict: decentralized resources can empower displaced people fleeing war. When the centralized system collapses, all it takes is a basic internet connection and a piece of paper with a seed phrase. Even those who have been able to withdraw fiat currency through ATMs are limited to $33 per transaction, which does not apply to crypto.
Ukraine already had the highest crypto adoption in Europe, which is now helping many of its citizens survive. The $2,000 that Fadey was able to carry on his pen drive equates to just under half of his savings. For all the crypto whales we analyze and read about, there are hundreds of thousands of people like Fadey. People for whom a few thousand dollars is the difference between life and death.
Ukraine is also embracing crypto at the government level. It has received millions of dollars in crypto donations from around the world and was officially legalized this week. Hopefully, other countries will now see how crypto can help their citizens in times of crisis and encourage further adoption.
Bitcoin ATMs in border countries have allowed those who escaped the Russian invasion to access their funds once they are safe. It would be great to see more Bitcoin ATMs; however, their existence is currently in doubt after they were banned in the UK last week.
Outside its borders, Portugal is also leading the way in supporting the relocation of Ukrainians. The country, which has no capital gains tax on crypto, welcomes refugees, including crypto workers from companies like NEAR. Portugal and Ukraine are both hubs of crypto development, so there is a natural synergy for Ukrainian crypto companies looking to relocate because of the war.
With more than 3.5 million refugees traveling across Europe from Ukraine, access to funds is a real problem. Crypto is not just an investment tool for those looking to go beyond stock marketing. For millions of people around the world, crypto opens up lifelines during some of the most challenging times. Decentralization not only protects our investments; it saves the lives of those who rely on it when they need it most.
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