After losing both legs at the front, Oleksandr Chalapchy invested all his disability compensation in an eco-friendly business that he launched a few months ago. He opened a factory producing biofuel made from straw and sunflower waste in Ulyanivka, Kirovograd Oblast.
“I don’t like feeling sorry for myself or asking for handouts. At the hospital, while others lay in bed, I raced along the corridors in my wheelchair. When the war started, I worked as a volunteer, but when I saw my former students on the front lines, I went to the recruitment office and signed up. I used to work as a lecturer at a technical college where I taught welding. I was mobilized and joined the 34th Kirovohrad Battalion. In late September, I was severely wounded in the village of Leninske. Of course, I was hospitalized, but didn’t lie in bed very long… soon I was up and about, moving around in my wheelchair.”
Oleksandr was sent to Austria for rehabilitation where he spent a lot of time reading and communicating with the local Ukrainian diaspora.
“I read that this small country ensures much of its heating needs through eco-friendly fuel. It interested me. When I returned home, I began implementing the idea into practice. I got 300,000 UAH in disability compensation that I used to purchase a pressing machine. I made the dryer myself and saved 100,000 UAH. I knew how to do this as I’d worked as a welder and made boilers before the war.”
Oleksandr makes pellets that are in no way inferior to coal. He believes they are more cost-effective and ecological than other fuels:
“You have to pay 4,000 UAH for a ton of coal, a truckload of firewood costs about 4,500 UAH, but a ton of my pellets is only 1,800 UAH. We produce about six tons of biofuel per week. I’ve just signed a contract with the local hospital to supply them with our product.”
When information on Oleksandr’s project appeared in social networks, many people offered help and advice to the young entrepreneur. For example, one man wrote that he was ready to create a free website for Oleksandr’s company.
Oleksandr does not expect a lot of business in the near future, and thinks that the first year will be difficult because people are suspicious and know very little about pressed pellets.
“Well, I’ve started something and I want to continue helping my country. I have three people working with me. This is just the beginning. I’d like my company to grow and reach a certain commercial importance at the regional level. I don’t want us to be constantly dependent on Russia.”
Our hero claims that he did not need to get into business. But, he hopes his experience will inspire other disabled soldiers.
“I can go back to what I did before… welding and making boilers. But, I want to show our soldiers that life goes on and they can help change our country.”
“At the hospital, there were many young guys who had lost a leg, and they believed that their life was finished. One fellow even jumped from the window, but fortunately he survived. I don’t even have my knees anymore! It would be much easier to move around if I did, but I won’t give up! I started walking as soon as I stood up on my prosthetic limbs for the first time. I’m not used to complaining and don’t want other Ukrainian guys to give up. After all, we have to rebuild our country.”