Czech manufacturer hires Ukranian refugees to produce body armour
A Czech leatherwork company that makes a wide variety of handmade products — travel bags, messenger totes, wallets and belts — had never planned to add personal protective gear that would save lives in a war to its offerings.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed that.
After Russian troops launched their assault on Ukraine, Tlusty and Co. hired refugees from Ukraine to help the company join a manufacturing operation equipping Ukrainian volunteers with body armour to face the invading troops.
The Prague-based company agreed to a request from the Post Bellum nongovernmental organisation to join a project to supply the protection gear similar to bulletproof vests to Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Forces.
“We specialise in completely different production,” Tlusty and Co. owner Ivan Petruv said. “We were facing a situation where we had to decide. And because we consider ourselves part of a community that wants to help in this situation as we can, which is only natural when you see the news, we decided to say yes.”
To make the new production happen was a race against the clock, he said. The company needed to get new machines, new materials and above all, to hire extra employees to join the 20-25 staffers.
Since the war began, 300,000 refugees who fled Ukraine have arrived in the Czech Republic, mostly women with children, so Petruv said they became an obvious place to look for new hires. “We published an advertisement at 8am and at noon we had a list of 70 people,” Petruv said.
Four days later, the 15 most qualified people started to work to complete the unusual contract. They sew ballistic plate carriers while other Ukrainians working for Post Bellum assemble the whole gear by inserting steel plates into the vests. The NGO finances it all through a crowd-funding campaign.