Darryl Morin, President and CEO of Advanced Wireless, Inc. (AWI), formally announced on February 1 the donation and pending shipment of more than 800 site-survivable Wi-Fi access points to Milwaukee’s Sister City of Irpin, Ukraine.
The donation, consisting of 840 state-of-the-art 802.11ac Wave 2 access points, is part of the company’s “Wireless School Initiative.” The project has already contributed over $2.5 million in wireless networking equipment and services to schools in southeastern Wisconsin.
“While many organizations see education as a target market from which to illicit profits, at AWI, we see our role as not one of vendor, but as a participant with a duty to enable learning whenever possible. That is who we are. That is what is in our digital DNA,” said Morin. “And that is why, when I was contacted and was briefed on the state of education in Irpin, we knew we had to act. Irpin has seen 20 schools either destroyed or severely damaged. School children have limited to no access to online resources, and often are forced from their classrooms to underground, hardened bomb shelters.”
On March 15, 2018, then-mayor of Milwaukee Tom Barrett signed the agreement with Irpin’s then-Mayor Volodymyr Karplyu, formalizing the Sister City relationship that had been approved by the Common Council. Kragujevac became Milwaukee’s 7th Sister City on January 26, after Abuja, Nigeria in December.
“We are very proud that Milwaukee is a sister city to Irpin, and we are happy to strengthen and develop the friendship between our cities and countries,” said Oleksandr Markushin, Mayor of Irpin. “Thanks to Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson for facilitating this help for us. You are a true friend of our city. Your support in such difficult times is very valuable to us.”
Along with the Milwaukee team who put the project together, and Boris Nayflish who has been Milwaukee’s liaison to Iprin, Mayor Markushin also thanked Morin for his attention to Irpin, and for offering important help during the struggles that Ukraine was experiencing.
“You are a responsible business leader and a reliable international partner,” said Mayor Markushin. “More than 800 Wi-Fi access points, which your company is providing free of charge to our Irpin community, will be installed in all schools and kindergartens, in the shelters of educational institutions, where – unfortunately – our children are forced to study during air raids. We will also be able to provide the Internet to medical institutions and social services of our community.”
Mayor Markushin added that AWI’s initiative also stood as an example to the enduring strength of the bond between Milwaukee and Irpin.
The initial objective of the unprovoked full-scale invasion launched by the Russian dicator Putin on February 22, 2022, was to seize control of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. Advancing southward from Belarus, Russian troops entered Ukraine, making their way through Irpin.
Thanks in significant measure to Mayor Markushin’s command of the local Territorial Guard, the invasion was effectively stopped there. But despite the swift and embarrassing withdrawal of Russian forces from the area, the brutal invaders left behind extensive devastation.
The defense of Ukraine’s capital resulted in severe damage to Irpin. For its sacrifices, Irpin was elevated to one of only four cities in Ukraine to have the status of “Hero City.”
In collaboration with global business communities, non-governmental organizations, and representatives from Ukrainian businesses and authorities, the Milwaukee-based humanitarian nonprofit Friends of Be an Angel has delivered nearly 63 million dollars in aid.
The aid has included essential resources such as lifesaving medical supplies, generators, ambulances, and food, all aimed at addressing the urgent needs on the ground.
“We are proud to announce that Friends of Be an Angel will take charge of the logistical aspects of AWI’s donation. This involves picking up the donation from Advance Wireless and ensuring its safe delivery to Irpin,” said Anya Verkhovskaya, Founder of Friends of Be An Angel. “Darryl Morin’s leadership, coupled with the unwavering support of Mayor Johnson and the Milwaukee Ukrainian community, has been instrumental in navigating the challenges faced during these critical times.”
Verkhovskaya said her organization was committed to providing immediate aid, and also supporting local businesses with logistical and networking assistance. That strategic approach was designed to contribute to the long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts in Irpin and across Ukraine.
The Wi-Fi network project was first reported by Milwaukee Independent on July 24, 2023, after photojournalist Lee Matz traveled with Verkhovskaya and her team to cover that Sister City meeting. It was the second time that Matz had reported from Irpin during the war.
Preliminary discussions for war-related economic cooperation between Milwaukee and Irpin began in May of 2022. Mayor Markushin visited Mayor Cavalier Johnson in Milwaukee shortly after Irpin was liberated from Russian occupation, and during his stay was introduced to Advanced Wireless.
“Our city has become home to many proud Ukrainian Americans. Many have made the hard journey from Ukraine, not just to Wisconsin but specifically here in the City of Milwaukee to build new lives,” said Mayor Johnson. “And even as they have become Americans, they have worked very hard and very diligently to hold onto the heritage of their Ukrainian homeland.”
Mayor Johnson said it was important for the Milwaukee community to continue supporting and respecting the richness and uniqueness of the culture of the people of Ukraine. He also expressed his continued support for Milwaukee’s Sister City relationship with Irpin.
“As we approach the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I feel for the innocent. Not just the innocent, but also the courageous people of Ukraine,” added Mayor Johnson. “I feel for the women, the men, and the children who have been thrown into this really terrible and senseless war, and through no fault of their own. We, all of us, must continue to condemn this war against Ukraine.”
Koledov Serhiy, the Consulate General of Ukraine in Chicago, thanked Mayor Johnson and the project team for showing how Sister City relations could be used effectively to build bridges and help each other.
“Such a partnership becomes especially important during a time of war. Your government has always paid considerable attention to the establishment of such special relationships with the cities and regions of Ukraine,” said Consulate General Serhiy. “I am also proud that the ordinary people of Milwaukee and the great state of Wisconsin are actively helping Ukraine. The Russian Federation shows no signs that it is willing to stop this brutal war against our people. We appreciate your help, it is invaluable. Our people will always remember the good friends who stood by them in this time of need.”
Even as Russian forces illegally occupy Ukrainian territory, the country faces a monumental task of recovery and reconstruction. Putin’s terror campaign against Ukrainian civilians over two years has shattered $135 billion of critical infrastructure.
Experts estimate that reconstruction efforts will cost $411 billion, which makes Ukraine one of the largest investment projects in Europe.
“The donation of Wi-Fi access points holds immense significance for Irpin’s educational landscape. With a substantial population, including 22,000 temporarily displaced citizens in Irpin, the demand for reliable internet connectivity is at an all-time high,” said Halyna Salapata, president of Wisconsin Ukrainians, Inc. “Many students are forced to attend school online due to physical space constraints. These donated access points will pave the way for widespread internet access, connecting schools, public spaces, and bomb shelters, to provide crucial connectivity across the community.”
Headquartered in Franklin, Wisconsin, Advanced Wireless is a provider of world-class mobile computing, wired, and wireless networking solutions with customers in eighteen countries.
“I would like to encourage other individuals and businesses to consider what they can do to ease the humanitarian suffering that is happening right now. Not just in Irpin, but across the country of Ukraine,” said Morin.
Morin also disclosed that he received an invitation to visit Irpin, and tour other cities across Ukraine, as part of a trade mission to evaluate how Milwaukee companies can benefit from economic partnerships.
“They have invited me, and other business leaders, to go to the country to look at the substantial economic opportunities that exist within different industries that need to be rebuilt,” added Morin.
Lee Matz, Oleg Hryb, City of Irpin, and Consulate General of Ukraine in Chicago