As Russia’s assault on Ukraine enters its third week, FN speaks with Kyiv-based shoe designer and business owner Alina Kachorovska, who runs the Kachorovska workshop with her family. Here, she explains how the brand’s factory in her hometown of Zhytomyr turned to producing army boots as the bombs exploded. As this work continues, Kachorovska embarks on an unexpected trip to Milan, an emotional trip that gives hope to her and other shoemakers this weekend. These are his words.
“I’m going to tell you an amazing story.
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We stayed in Kiev for 15 days of war, from the first day it started. We could go out anywhere in Europe as we have received dozens of messages of support from our partners all over Europe and Turkey. But it was our conscious choice to stay home.
Our activity completely stopped on February 24th.
My hometown, where the factory is located, was the target of bomb attacks from the first day of the war. On the 5th day, my mother, who runs the factory, began to receive requests for military boots for male volunteers in the army. She called other shoe factories and called our employees, and all of them agreed to start working and produce military boots.
We put a message on our Instagram that we produce 500 pairs of military boots for free, and if people would like to support and donate, we could produce about 500-800 pairs more. We raised $25,000 in less than 2 days. At this moment, we (our factory and another shoe factory in our city) are finishing the last 200 pairs. We have produced 1,000 military boots and send them to every corner of Ukraine for free.
The most valuable feedback is from a soldier – he’s our technologist’s husband: he said these boots are the most comfortable and easiest he’s ever had – he walked 60 kilometers in them.
So we decided for a while to start producing military boots.
And that’s not the end of the story.
On the 14th day of war, March 8, we had our first call about work and started thinking about new sales channels. I knew that the Micam would be held in Milan in the [coming] days. We have never participated in Micam before, maybe it could be a chance. But I realized that under these circumstances, we couldn’t afford to participate.
[But] the next day in Kyiv, I picked up the phone and wrote a message to our partners EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) asking for help and funding for Ukrainian shoe brands to participate in Micam. I had almost no hope – all procedures with the EBRD take months – but I made it. Otherwise, I would blame myself for not having acted for my country, for our employees, even if there was the slightest chance.
EBRD accepted this project in one day, and now we and 3 other Ukrainian shoe brands will participate in Micam in 2 days.
We have collected all the samples from different parts of Ukraine in a state of war. We moved from Kyiv with our 3 children and 3 suitcases of samples, drove 2 days across the border into Poland and felt how horrible and terrifying it is to be a refugee. We slept one night on the floor as there was nothing available in western Ukraine and we stayed at the border for 8 hours. Currently, we are crossing Slovakia. Tomorrow we will arrive in Milan, and on Monday we will present at Micam.
It’s kind of a miracle. We don’t know what this exhibition will bring to all of us. But one I know for sure – he’s already given us hope.
Welcome to our Ukrainian booth — Pad4, K08, March 14-15 in Milan.
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