How an Ukrainian Car Plant Helps People During Wartime

How an Ukrainian Car Plant Helps People During Wartime

ŠKODA WORLD

The Eurocar plant has a 20-year tradition of assembling ŠKODA cars and other Volkswagen Group models. However, due to the war in Ukraine, it is currently not producing any new models. Instead, food and humanitarian aid is being directed from here to wherever it is needed. Refugee families have also been accommodated in the factory.

3. 5. 2022

The vast halls of the production plant in Solomonovo, Ukraine, are used to the work bustle and the orchestra of machines that have been assembling mostly ŠKODA vehicles for the local market in a regular rhythm for many years. The local Eurocar company uses rails with both narrower, Western European track gauge, as well as Eastern-standard rails. From one side, components are delivered to the plant, while the finished models (currently the KAROQ, KODIAQ and SUPERB) leave the plant to be further distributed to different regions of Ukraine.

Drone-2Solomonovo is located in western Ukraine, on the border with Hungary and Slovakia.

With an annual capacity of 80,000 cars produced in CKD (Completely-Knocked-Down) mode and 30,000 assembled as SKD (Semi-Knocked-Down), the facilities here are extensive. Although production had to stop completely because of the war, the plant remains busy – perhaps even more than ever before. Just in a matter of days, the factory was transformed into a logistics center, which distributes humanitarian aid to the Ukrainians, including the help that is flowing into the country thanks to ŠKODA AUTO (read more about the carmaker’s activities HERE).

Shelter-2Children housed in the local accommodation learn and play at the Solomonovo plant.

Warehouses distribute supplies, people live in the halls

Instead of wagons with ŠKODA parts, deliveries with food, clothes, blankets, drug equipment, medicines, and other medical supplies started coming. The aid is distributed here, then packed and transported to where it is most needed.

“We have joined the cause in the first moments of the war. We decided to postpone producing cars and help the best we can: with logistical support, using the contacts with our suppliers and collaborators in Europe, but also directly to our fellow citizens affected by the conflict. We have even sheltered dozens of families with children in the halls,” says Elena Chepizhko, Head of External Relations at Eurocar.

Elena_Chepizkho_SKODA_AUTO_04-copyElena Chepizhko
Head of External Relations at Eurocar

And so, in the warehouses where car bodies, engines and parts are usually waiting for assembly, pallets of rice and other non-perishable foodstuffs are now stacking up. Just a few steps away, plant employees are distributing clothes, sleeping bags, shoes and other textiles, and the colleagues next door are taking care of medical supplies. Families with children live in halls and offices where lighting, heat and at least basic sanitary facilities are provided. Over 130 people are now housed here, and the number is growing. The plant’s kitchen no longer cooks only for the employees, but the refugees receive three meals a day.

Logistic-hub-1These days, the plant’s warehouses are set aside for clothing, sleeping bags, shoes and other material aid.

A bed made of pallets

The village of Solomonovo lies in the very west of Ukraine, on the border with Hungary and Slovakia, in the so-called Zakarpattia Oblast, which was part of Czechoslovakia before 1939. Thanks to Solomonovo’s geographical location, it is now the safest part of the country that has not yet been seriously affected by the war, which is why many people from the eastern regions flee here.

Shelter-5The refugees don’t mind that the beds they can sleep safely in now may have been made from pallets.

Different cultures and historical legacies are intertwined here. But people here still recall being a part of the same country – the entire Zakarpattia Oblast was part of Czechoslovakia before 1939. Assembling Czech cars here has renewed closer contacts with the Czech Republic.

ŠKODA AUTO Helps Ukraine

ŠKODA AUTO has already sent 12 trucks of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and donated 10 million CZK to the non-profit organization “People in Need” (Člověk v tísni) immediately after the outbreak of the war. The carmaker also helped a hospital in Tiachiv with 1 million CZK, and is just as committed to helping Ukrainian refugees in the Czech Republic in the regions where it has production plants. The company gave 2 million CZK to the towns of Mladá Boleslav, Rychnov nad Kněžnou and Vrchlabí to provide for the needs of refugees. The latest contribution is an employee donation organized in cooperation with the KOVO Trade Union. The carmaker’s management doubled this amount to a total of CZK 3.6 million.

220331-skoda-help-for-ukraine_logo-copyŠKODA was one of the first companies to help EUROCAR and Ukrainians in general.

The ŠKODA AUTO Endowment Fund is also active, announcing a set of regional grant programs. These projects will serve local authorities and organizations to promote the involvement of adults and children, for example through education, language courses, clubs for children or psychological, health and social assistance.

ŠKODA AUTO has also signed up to help its Ukrainian employees and their families to ensure a safe life in the Czech Republic. Specifically, this includes support with visa processing, accommodation, language courses, healthcare, integration, education, and, if possible, finding employment. Long-term, more than 600 citizens from Ukraine have been working in the company’s Czech production plants.

The war refugees are grateful for help of any kind. So they do not complain that their current bed was created, for example, by joining two pallets with temporary mattresses or sleeping bags which were donated. You can hardly expect a huge industrial hall to be comfortable, but families are safe here and the children can even be educated and play games.

Shelter_School-with-Midgard-6School, including physical exercise, takes place online.

“Our employees are also happy that they did not lose their jobs despite the war,” points out Ms. Chepizhko. “And it is important for us as an employer, in addition to helping our fellow citizens, that we can keep the company running at least in this way.” With the facilities available, the plant has offered halls to companies from the rest of the country to operate from Solomonovo. “We want to contribute to preserving Ukraine’s production capacity during the war, which will also help our country and people.” 

The Czech Connection

Ms. Elena is telling us about the transformation of the Ukrainian Solomonovo plant in Mladá Boleslav, where she escaped the war with her mother. She had several options of where to go, but thanks to contacts with colleagues who offered to help her, the choice was clear. “I know Mladá Boleslav well. I’ve been here many times for work reasons. The people at ŠKODA AUTO have been supporting us all. I couldn’t have done it without their help.”

They are safe once again in the Czech Republic.

“I feel safe here in the Czech Republic. And I can be more useful here than at home, where people hide from air raids in shelters. However, I hope that peace will come soon, and millions of Ukrainians will be able to return home,” she says with determination. Thanks to her experience, she has acquired a job as a contract worker and is helping in the External Relations department with organizing ŠKODA’s help for Ukraine and its citizens who have fled to the Czech Republic to escape the war.

“As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed. And ŠKODA AUTO was one of the first companies to help Eurocar and the Ukrainians. We are deeply grateful for their prompt and reliable support from the very beginning of the war,” concludes Elena Chepizhko.