Soldier uses disability compensation to launch eco-friendly business

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2016/08/22 • Stories from the Front, Ukraine, War in the Donbas

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.”

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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.”

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Translated by: Christine Chraibi
Source: znaj.ua

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  • Rascalndear

    What a great guy! Maybe we could have some contact information for him? I have people interested in the pellets for fuel.

  • Randolph Carter

    The Ukrainian spirit – amazing. You can’t keep a good man down, especially one from a country who will defend itself another that is 10 times bigger, with more technology and sheer size. I haven’t met a lot of Ukrainians, but the ones I’ve met are unstoppable – something bad happens, deal with it and move on. What an inspiration – and here I sat, grumbling about deadlines at work. Kinda makes me rethink my lot in life.

    • Robert

      Slava Oleksandr Chalapchy!

      Slava Ukraini!!

      Heroyam Slava!!!

  • Alex George

    Such an inspiring story.

    Its terrible that Ukraine has so many disabled due to the war, but thank you for publicizing this young man’s amazing achievements and his positive attitude.

  • Ben Skinner

    Leading by example is and overcoming adversity is possible in Ukraine thanks to their national cohesion and sense of community. There are many Ukrainians putting their shoulders to the wheel, with the support of their neighbors giving them the strength and incentive to do so.
    Keep it, stay strong together and you will be stronger when you act alone, too.
    That’s your recipe for national success, Ukraine. Stand firm, stand together, and keep on moving!

  • Brent

    Great to see the entrepreneurial spirit, but even better to see an renewable cheaper resource that gets away from fossil fuels.