It was 2016 and we were all intoxicated by the electric vehicle revolution around the world, hoping that the trend would also come to Poland. Together with Clean Technica and a group of friends – EV enthusiasts, of course – we organized a series of events called the Clean Technology Revolution Tour. I was responsible for the one held in Wrocław, Poland. It was then that I first met Hanna and Arsenii from Ukraine, a married couple who simply had to please at first sight.
Truth be told, at that time I was as ignorant as I could be of Ukraine and its EV efforts. I did my homework and was amazed to learn how aggressively the country was pushing the e-mobility agenda. Regarding Hanna and Arsenii, they were the face of the Ukrainian revolution. Arsenii is an engineer, a talented craftsman who can literally make things work (more on that later), initiator of the Ukrainian EV Association, and its president in 2016. And, of course, Arsenii looks like Elon Musk, and even if you can’t see it in the pictures, you have to trust me, it’s more evident when you meet Arsenii live.
Hanna is an Electric Ukraine activist who supports multiple initiatives, programs and events aimed at developing environmentally friendly transportation. Together they created a company that imports electric cars and buses to Ukraine, and they also manufacture their own plug adapters and charging stations. Yes, I was amazed when I met them and absolutely charmed by their personalities.
After our first meeting in Wrocław, I was invited to speak at one of the EVIM events in Kyiv in the spring of 2017. The conference was organized by Denis Radiuk and a number of wonderful Ukrainians who were more than just early adapters. They were the life and soul of Ukrainian e-mobility. Along with an EV friend, Kuba (whom you may remember a few Clean Technica articles), we landed in Kyiv and were driven to the hotel in an electric taxi – one of the company’s many fully electric taxi company Nissan LEAFs. In Kyiv. In 2017. Please note: we did not have electric taxi companies in Poland at that time.
The Polish delegation was large and also included Adam Hłond, owner of Rawicom; Piotr Wielgus, editor-in-chief of Manager Floty magazine; and Aleksandra and Łukasz Jania, owners of Fleet Mobility. We were all there to promote electric transport and modern MaaS (mobility as a service) solutions – when in fact we saw more electric vehicles on the roads than in Poland, a high level of vehicle awareness electricity and a very strong motivation to be independent of Russian fossil fuels, as some Ukrainian participants at the conference told me. I didn’t understand everything at the time.
On the second day, Hanna and Arsenii took Kuba and I on a tour, showing us the best of kyiv, but most importantly showing us around their Electric Kingdom. We were shown electric vehicles from China that they were importing into Ukraine. In a small garage in a small courtyard, Arsenii showed us a charging station made up of… servers, and another with a capacity of 50 kW as smart as any ABB station you could find in Poland.
After that we went to a large manufacturing plant that used to be a weapons factory, where Arsenii rented space and made battery cells, battery management systems and other things that I didn’t understand not even. In a small office, we talked and laughed, we shared visions of an electric future. In the middle of that, Arsenii showed us a thick paper file that ultimately included the design of an electric off-road vehicle similar to a Polaris RZR PRO XP 4, complete with all technical drawings, specs, and visualizations. The most amazing part was how Arsenii showed us all these projects as if they were normal things you do in your spare time, without really bragging. I loved that about him.
I share all these memories with you to help you, readers around the world, to understand that everything is gone. The Ukrainian electric dream is gone. Since 2016, we have met Hanna at several EV events. We have exchanged ideas, jokes and wishes throughout these years. After February 24, I texted him and other Ukrainian friends to ask how they were doing and offered my support here in Poland. Hanna was torn between staying and leaving. Two weeks later, I received his message saying that they were fleeing to Poland with his sister-in-law and their five children. They needed accommodation for a few days in Katowice while waiting for their flight to Spain to reunite with their eldest daughter.
As I was on a business trip in Denmark, I made a quick phone call to Kuba, who lives in the Katowice area, and he quickly arranged Hanna’s accommodation with her in-laws and transport from the border (towards which they walked the last 20 kilometres). I finally met Hanna a few days later, taking her family to the airport. I am emotional and easily moved. I fought not to cry as I gave Hanna a welcoming hug and looked at her face. I’ll spare you the drama of her story from the previous weeks.
I can say that Arsenii remains in Ukraine, of course, and he is deputy head of the supply department in the south of Kyiv. Hanna is still coordinating supplies from Poland, Germany and elsewhere, and Ukrainian trucks continue to pick up these goods. They still don’t know if they will have a place to return to.
The efforts of Hanna, Arsenii, Denis, Nazar (founder of Go To-U) and many other electric vehicle enthusiasts in Ukraine were wiped out on February 24, 2022 by Russian invaders. Ukrainian infrastructure, cities and cars are victims of ruthless, senseless and random destruction by the barbaric Russian army. Still, I want to be clear – it’s temporary. Ukraine will win because its people are the toughest and most determined fighters I have ever met. GM failed to kill the electric car. Russia will fail trying to kill Ukrainian electric car. And we can all help Ukraine win by lobbying politicians, contributing to fundraisers big and small, collecting goods for Ukraine, or just letting them know we’re here for them. Everything counts. Don’t be indifferent.
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