From solidarity to concrete action: how Knorr-Bremse is supporting Ukraine
“This war is not only an attack on a free nation, it is also an attack on our liberal values in Europe,” says the Knorr-Bremse Executive Board about the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. And the group has taken action, raising over EUR 1.3 million in donations to date. In addition, employees undertook numerous aid campaigns on the ground. But how does a company manage to deliver aid in a structured and professional manner?
“As soon as the war broke out, we assured our Ukrainian colleagues that we would stand by them and their families, whatever happened. Everyone at our site in Stráž nad Nisou helped – it came from the bottom of our hearts,” says Eva Kubesova, a human resources employee at Knorr-Bremse in the Czech Republic, summing up the shared commitment among the workforce. She expresses the attitude of many European and North American sites that are helping Ukraine in a variety of ways: making donations in kind and money, transporting aid supplies to the Ukrainian border, volunteering, providing accommodation, organizing personal fundraising campaigns and providing psychological support.
The list goes on and on. Other crucial factors in effective aid are determination and smooth-running processes: “Knorr-Bremse can draw upon support structures that have evolved over the long term, processes for executing projects, and the strong commitment of all the employees and people involved. The project work of Knorr-Bremse Global Care, the aid measures of Knorr-Bremse AG and the Rail and Truck divisions, and those of the Knorr-Bremse sites, have culminated in a comprehensive package of measures for people in and from Ukraine – a package that makes a difference,” explains Frank Weber, CFO and Executive Board Spokesman of Knorr-Bremse AG. Firstly, targeted assistance is based on the commitment of the Executive Board and the employees of Knorr-Bremse AG. Secondly, the company has structures in place to enable efficient planning and implementation of measures. These have been created by Knorr-Bremse Global Care and the Corporate Responsibility department with its Local Care and Volunteering programs, both of which are deeply anchored in the international sites.
The project work of Knorr-Bremse Global Care, the aid measures of Knorr-Bremse AG and the Rail and Truck divisions, and those of the Knorr-Bremse sites, have culminated in a comprehensive package of measures for people in and from Ukraine – a package that makes a difference.
Frank Markus Weber – CFO and Executive Board Spokesman of Knorr-Bremse AG
Support for refugees in Ukraine
Long-term commitment really pays off when support is needed at short notice. For several years, Global Care has been supporting an orphanage and training center run by the Salesians of Don Bosco in Lviv, Western Ukraine. Here, young people have received training for future careers in sectors such as catering and mechatronics.
Since the outbreak of war in the spring and summer of 2022, the Salesian premises have been used primarily to accommodate internally displaced people fleeing from the east of the country on their onward and transit journeys. The orphans who normally live in the children’s home were evacuated, most of them to Slovakia. Between March and the summer holidays, they received their school and training lessons online, which meant that all learners could log on from their current location. Since 1 September, school has started again on site and the majority of the evacuated orphans have returned to Lviv.
Silvia Cromm from Don Bosco Mondo e.V. is coordinating the emergency aid from Bonn and explains the procedure: “The Salesians of Don Bosco are helping throughout the country, including in Lviv, Dnipro, Kiev, Korosyshiv, Odessa, Peremyshlany, Bibrka and the region of Kharkiv. In many of these places, people in need are receiving food, water and medicine. Families from vulnerable regions have been evacuated. They are being helped to flee.”
Knorr-Bremse Global Care has assisted in the intake of people by covering the costs of food and accommodation and by providing medical and psychological care for the people who seek shelter at the center. At times there are up to 260 each day (90% women, children and elderly people). A range of recreational activities are also offered for the children. Julia Thiele-Schürhoff, Chairwoman of the Board of Knorr-Bremse Global Care, emphasizes the trusting partnership: “Knorr-Bremse Global Care and Don Bosco Mondo have been working together for many years in various countries around the world. In Ukraine, we have jointly turned a small orphanage into a successful training center that is seen as a lighthouse project. So by now we have developed a trusting relationship that forms a sound basis for us as partners to deliver rapid and targeted support directly in Ukraine. Because even when there is pressure to act in emergency situations, we want to use the funds effectively, with a high degree of transparency. This is our standard and our commitment, also towards the donors.”
Knorr-Bremse Global Care and Don Bosco Mondo have been working together for many years in various countries around the world. In Ukraine, we have jointly turned a small orphanage into a successful training center that is seen as a lighthouse project.
Julia Thiele-Schürhoff – Chairwoman of the Board of Knorr-Bremse Global Care e. V.
Conference center becomes refugee accommodation
Locations in countries bordering and geographically close to Ukraine – including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Germany – have taken very extensive measures, and continue to do so. Employees are often personally impacted by the war and have family and friends in Ukraine. This makes them especially eager to help, with many sites organizing shelters for refugees. Knorr-Bremse AG provided specific funding to the two highly dedicated Czech sites in Modřice and Stráž nad Nisou in their efforts to help Ukrainian family members. As a result, Ukrainian staff have provided temporary shelter and protection to 74 family members. Besides accommodation, refugees have received job offers and are able to access psychological counseling in Ukrainian through a telephone counseling service.
In addition, Knorr-Bremse Rail Vehicle Systems’ own “Hofgut Eck” conference center at its Aldersbach site in Lower Bavaria has been converted into a refugee shelter. By early November 2022, 29 refugees from Ukraine had found a temporary home here, primarily women and children. As well as donating material supplies such as furniture, toys, clothing and school materials, employees from the location supported a wide range of integration activities. These included cooking together, organizing a German course, accompanying refugees to medical appointments and helping them navigate paperwork for local authorities, school registration and job applications. Another focus was helping with the difficult search for permanent housing. In addition, INSITE, an experienced provider of such support, arranged psychological counseling on an individual basis. After all, small steps can often make a great difference to a person’s overall wellbeing.
“Hofgut Eck” refugee accommodation
International sites show great solidarity
At almost all Knorr-Bremse’s European and North American sites there were fundraising campaigns to financially support victims of the war. Some were promoted throughout the group via the intranet, others were set up on employees’ own initiative. Besides the countries mentioned above, large-scale aid campaigns were organized in France, the UK, Italy, Switzerland, Spain and North America. Donations in kind were transported to the Ukrainian border in the company’s own trucks or via NGOs. Work and housing offers were also arranged – everything to help those affected to stabilize their situation and reach some semblance of normality.
Facts & figures
In the first few months, the Knorr Bremse group raised funds amounting to EUR 1,333,687.84, plus donations from various Knorr-Bremse sites. In the first six weeks of the war alone, employees collected almost EUR 400,000, which the company doubled to make EUR 800,000. In addition, immediately after the outbreak of war, Knorr-Bremse donated EUR 500,000 to the German Red Cross and UNICEF , organizations with vast experience in war and crisis zones. Knorr-Bremse Global Care also donated money and coordinated a number of aid campaigns. Across the board, Knorr-Bremse employees and sites took a wide range of initiatives to support Ukraine. The following are just a few examples:
- Housing: The Knorr-Bremse sites in Aldersbach, Kecskemét, Modřice, Stráž nad Nisou, as well as Swiss Selectron Systems AG and the Czech Knorr-Bremse Business Services Europe offer housing for refugees in company apartments, hostels and a conference center, among other premises.
- Volunteering: Ukrainian-speaking colleagues in Munich receive paid time to serve as interpreters and provide native-speaker assistance to refugees arriving at various locations in Munich.
- Monetary donations: In addition to the group-wide fundraising campaign, many Knorr-Bremse sites donated money directly to humanitarian organizations or launched local fundraising campaigns and then contributed to the final donation amount. This was the approach taken in: Knorr-Bremse Lisieux - Systèmes pour Véhicules Utilitaires, Selectron Systems AG, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC, Knorr-Bremse Rail Systems Budapest and at the sites in Mödling and Liberec.
- In Italy, employees at Microelettrica Scientifica SpA, Knorr-Bremse Rail Systems Italia and Knorr-Bremse S.A.C. S.p.A. Arcore donated two hours of their working time and the company doubled the amount. At Knorr Brake Company, USA, a raffle was organized to win football tickets for Maryland’s opening game and the proceeds were donated to the NGO Save the Children for children in Ukraine.
- Job offers: Knorr-Bremse submits job offers to Job Aid Ukraine, an initiative and platform that helps refugees from Ukraine to find employment. Ukrainian workers are also welcome to apply directly. At Knorr-Bremse in Kecskemét, Hungary alone, a dozen refugees found jobs.
- Donations in kind: Knorr-Bremse Polska CVS, for example, has set a budget and sends groceries and hygiene products each week to a social center in Warsaw that houses Ukrainian mothers and their children.
- Individual donations: Staff at Knorr-Bremse also make individual contributions. They organize donations in kind at their own sites – for example in Getafe, Tinqueux and at Knorr-Bremse Rail Systems (UK) Ltd. – or provide refugees with accommodation, help them navigate bureaucratic procedures and much more besides.