‘Koppert strongly condemns the Russian government’s invasion. We feel an urgent responsibility for our colleagues, their families, growers and consumers in the countries involved in the conflict.’
This is the message Koppert conveyed to its management and staff on 15 March following the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Emergency fundWithin days, the Koppert Foundation had set up an emergency fund and multiple initiatives sprung up from different subsidiaries in support of the people of Ukraine. Colleagues close to the region helped with the evacuation and shelter of refugees, while those further away started collecting emergency goods and transporting them to Ukraine, and neighbouring Poland and Slovakia.‘There was the most amazing response from our colleagues around the world,’ recalls Ed Moerman Executive Manager of the Koppert Foundation. ‘We were in constant contact with our subsidiaries in the neighbouring countries to Ukraine, so that we could get the best possible picture of the situation on the borders. Ireneusz Osekowski, General manager of Koppert Poland and Roland Kreskóci, General manager of Koppert Slovakia, and his wife Jarka immediately responded to the Ukrainian crisis on their borders. In Poland the emphasis was on collecting relief goods for refugees, and in Slovakia the priority was to accommodate refugees in tents and provide them with food and basic sanitary items. Jarka organized educational and sport activities for refugee children and teenagers, and language classes for adults. Roland and Jarka: ‘We knew we needed to do something. So we got in the car and drove to the Humené refugee camp to volunteer our services where we spent a week and tried to help as much as possible’
Bikes and cooking class
We also received bikes from my husband’s colleagues in the Netherlands – a wonderful gesture that was much appreciated,’ Jarka added. With the support of the foundation we organized a cooking class for Ukrainian and Slovak families to make “boršč”, and bought medical supplies and clothing that was sent to Ukraine through Koppert’s distributor.
We are family
General Manager of Koppert Poland, Ireneusz Osękowski, remembers the day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine very clearly: ‘My wife and I immediately bought essential goods at the nearest supermarket and sent it off to the border. We then started to collect more goods together with our colleagues at the office. Soon we were talking to Henri Oosthoek who asked me to take part in a video conference with local authorities in Berkel, so that I could inform them about how they could help too.
This is when I realized just how important and effective our core value ‘We are family’ really is.’ ‘Many of our customers in Poland were already helping refugees on their farms, so we started providing aid via these growers,’ Ireneusz explains. ‘They knew what the refugees needed; backpacks, bedding, pillows, and in this way the support went to where it was needed most.’ With the help of the Koppert Foundation, essential goods were soon reaching these customer locations and the Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
During this interview, Ireneusz, who was travelling in his car, observed that he had just passed 50 military trucks with tanks on his way to a customer. ‘We must realize that this war is far from over. We are still collecting goods for the long-term. One request from a young refugee was for a guitar so that he could entertain people. That’s good for morale, so we organized that too.’ Other donations The money donated to the foundation was used primarily to buy medicines, clothing, school supplies and other vital goods for the Ukrainian refugees. Dutch colleagues also made a collection of specific goods for Poland. The Rotterdam foundation, Jarige Job, contributed backpacks and school supplies which Koppert transported to Poland and distributed to Ukrainians in need. At the request of Olga Kostenko (AgDev Micro), a contribution of fresh fruit and vegetables was made to the food bank in Wageningen in cooperation with a greengrocer at the Berkel market. A large group of Ukrainian food bank clients were provided with healthy food. For his part, Rick Weeda (Logistics) received a budget for bicycles that made it possible for Ukrainian youngsters in Rotterdam-South to cycle to school from their refugee shelter in that city.
Koppert contributed €25,000 of which €20,000 was immediately transferred to ZOA International (emergency aid for crisis areas). Employees donated a total of €6,618, which Koppert matched euro for euro to bring it to a total of €13,236. Next to the donations from around the world, we also collected relief goods.