They did not hesitate for a moment. From the start of the Russian offensive in Ukraine at the end of February, Jean-Paul Kihm, Jean-Loup Michel, Alan and Florent Renardfour farmers from Haute-Marne, have decided to help the 90 employees of the company Agro KMRa 20,000 hectare farm they have been operating for fifteen years in Troits’ke, 250 km north of the port of Mariupol.
“At the start of the invasion, the region was calm, but faced with the advance of Russian troops, the employees wanted to shelter their loved ones”, explained in mid-March, in “Le Journal de la Haute-Marne », Jean-Paul Kihm, one of the co-founders of Agro KMR.
Lions Clubs and Rotary
To exfiltrate the families, the leaders mobilize their local network, via three associations of the Lions Club and Rotary. Their members collect some 9 m3 of basic necessities – healthcare products in particular transported with chartered buses in Haute-Marne. Direction the Polish border, where a Ukrainian carrier takes over for the remaining 1,500 km to Troits’ke.
“The village has not yet been affected, but it welcomes families coming from the front line with the wounded,” says Jean-Paul Kihm. Eighty women and children then board the buses for the return journey which takes them, on March 17, to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises.
A hotel is made available to accommodate refugees supported by the services of the prefecture. “We provided them with internet access and telephone cards so that they could keep in touch with the men left behind. In Ukraine, we had carried satellite communication systems, ”explains the manager.
The four partners monitor the situation on a daily basis, while trying to remain positive about the future of their business. In 2006, when they moved to Ukraine, everything had to be built. “We even built a bridge. So if we have to rebuild roads, we will do it, ”says Jean-Paul Kihm.
In fifteen years, the partners have transformed the former kolkhoz into a state-of-the-art farm, where the latest generation tractors work alongside drones to produce some 50,000 tonnes of wheat, 10,000 of rapeseed or 12,000 of sunflower each year. A large part of this production is exported to North Africa, but also to India and Bangladesh, all very dependent on Ukrainian production.
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