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The war in Ukraine: bombs, escaping, vineyards to save and resistance in the winery

WineNews interviewed the Ukrainian winemaker Alia Plachkova, “We need humanity, but we cannot abandon our companies”
ALIA PLACHKOVA, PROWEIN, ukraine, WAR, News
Ukrainian winemakers at “ProWein” in Düsseldorf

Since the first day of the Russian invasion, on February 24, 2022, a date dramatically destined to remain in the history books, WineNews, though thousands of kilometers away from the front, has endeavored to narrate what the Ukrainian wine producers have been experiencing. Their daily life, the same as all the other Ukrainians has been deeply shocked and disrupted. After more than a year, entire Regions of the Country have been occupied and razed to the ground by bombs from Moscow, but the rest of Ukraine is resisting, and intends to do so for a long time, in the vineyards as well. We had the opportunity to meet the winemakers at "ProWein" in Düsseldorf, the real heroes of our times, who, despite the daily threat of missiles falling, continue to take care of their vineyards and wineries, defending a cultural as well as fundamental economy, such as the wine sector. The situation there, as one can imagine, is certainly not simple, yet many people are hopeful and confident, starting with Alia Plachkova, at the helm of the Kolonist Family Winery, who shared the drama of the war with us (see the video interview here).
“We, like no one else, know what it's like to wake up in the morning with bombs raining down on your head. There are times when all you can think about is saving your children, and you don't really understand what's going on. After a year of war, I can say that Ukraine is the best Nation in the world, our soldiers are the best, civilians are the best, because they have kept working, like we have, throughout the year. It was tough, because many wine areas have lost manpower, as a lot of people have left the Country to save their families. And others, instead, have not been able to work, either because their Region has been occupied by Russian militia, or because the situation there was too dangerous for the safety of the workers”, Alia Plachkova said. “As a result of the Russian invasion, several companies have been completely destroyed or looted, and, in any case, besides the devastation, the bombings often make it impossible to work. In spite of this though, since some occupied territories have been reconquered and made secure, many Ukrainians are returning to the Country”. Regarding her own situation, the Ukrainian winemaker recalled that her own winery, “the Kolonist Winery, which is located in a traditional Ukrainian wine area, the Black Sea area, has been spared from the bombs. The Russians arrived from the East and the North, so at least up until now, our area hasn't been directly affected by the conflict, because the bombs stopped 25 kilometers from the winery. Our employees have been really brave, because in spite of the planes that fly over our skies and the bombs that are dropped nearby, they have continued to work every day. We have not been able to pay their salaries for several months, but that hasn't stopped them, because they believe in Ukraine, they believe in us, they believe in what they do, and we are grateful to them, because by doing so they are saving an entire sector”, Alia Plachkova emphasized.
“I was unable to stay in Ukraine, as I have young children and I gave first priority to the safety of my children, with whom I now live in Bulgaria. I don't want them to be traumatized, to see people killed or to experience the cruelty of enemy soldiers. Our winery is still working, and my husband is still in Ukraine making sure that everything is going well. It is impossible to leave a winery for a year and then go back to it. Wines are being vinified, or they are in barrels, not to mention the vineyard, which is the most important component in the wine production process, and which needs to be followed up every day. I am very worried about my husband, but we absolutely have to save the winery, knowing we are not just saving it, but we are also doing humanitarian work, donating equipment, clothing, helmets, food and drink to soldiers and the army. A lot of kids are dying for nothing, and I’m disgusted by all of this. This is not why we came into the world. We are now at the beginning of the twenty-first century and we want to work to develop our Country, because we love it”.
The Country has never been abandoned by the rest of the Western world. There has been a real race for solidarity, from the wine sector, too. “Especially in the beginning, when the war began, aid arrived from all sides: Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, the Balkan Countries, but also from the United States. For instance, the Managers of a French company with which we had been working for 10 years, realized that we couldn't buy the barriques, and they supplied us with them anyway, telling us that we would pay for them when we were able to. This was a way to help us and let us continue on ahead. We were also impressed by the number of Ukrainian flags we saw in the windows here in Germany - it’s something that helps us to hold on, to believe in ourselves, to believe in God. The thing we need most is humanity, because it is impossible for a normal person to be guilty of such cruel actions like war”, Alia Plachkova warned.

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