“Join us in looking beyond the here and now! Are you ready?” Steffi Czerny, DLD Managing Director, marked the start of DLD Munich 23 with this invitation at the 'House of Communication'.
It has been nearly two months since Russia began its brutal war against Ukraine. More than 10 million Ukrainians have fled their homes – 4.3 million leaving for neighbouring countries, and another 6.5 million thought to be displaced inside the battle-torn country itself. It is the fastest-growing exodus that Europe has witnessed since World War II.
It was clear from the beginning that Hubert Burda Media and its employees wanted to show solidarity and provide the most effective support possible.
In the country’s western city of Lviv, hundreds of thousands of refugees are seeking shelter in sports facilities, schools, hospitals, and churches. A range of aid organisations are working around the clock along the border between Ukraine and Poland. They have reported an urgent need for specific items if they are to continue to provide support in Lviv.
Burda thus launched a company-wide Ukraine support project, collecting donations from colleagues at Burda locations in Germany (Munich, Offenburg, Dresden, Siebenlehn, Berlin, and Hamburg), Poland (Warsaw and Wroclaw), and the Czech Republic (Prague). Following days of pick-ups, project coordinator Claus-Thomas Kuhn, Director Compliance International at Hubert Burda Media, set off in the Support Truck for Ukraine with a team of intrepid colleagues. The vehicle was filled with ten tonnes of donations ranging from medicines, baby food, hygiene articles, strollers and mattresses through to warm blankets, first-aid kits and canned food, all carefully sorted by dedicated volunteers into some 700 boxes. After loading the donations from Burda's German locations, the truck made its way to Wroclaw – a Burda Media Polska hub – before collecting supplies from the Prague and Warsaw locations. At the end of a three-day journey, they were finally handed to the Rotary Club International and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the city of Lviv. Additionally, the Burda support team managed to transport 19 refugees – six small families consisting of mothers, grandmothers and children – from the Polish border town of Przemyśl to the safety of the Munich region.
Project coordinator Claus-Thomas Kuhn initially wanted to help on a private basis at the Ukrainian border, but at the end of February he was contacted by Burda CEO Martin Weiss: “He asked me for my assessment of the situation and whether I would like to organize the aid project on behalf of the Burda employees. This was both a matter of course and an honour for me,” says Claus-Thomas Kuhn.
“Our contacts with our colleagues in Poland and the Czech Republic proved essential when arranging the handover of the aid supplies to Ukrainian distribution channels at the country’s border. Following intensive preliminary discussions with the auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Church in Lviv, and with the support of the deputy mayor of Katowice and the President of the Rotary Club International Lviv, we were able to unload our support truck directly onto the commissioned Ukrainian trucks – which then set off immediately across the border to Lviv.”
Claus-Thomas Kuhn, Director Compliance International at Hubert Burda Media
Thanks to Anna Paliychuk, herself a refugee and former sales manager at Burda Ukraina in Kyiv, we were able to gain the refugees’ trust. She approached the women and children at the railway station in Przemysl, enabling the Burda team to take them to safety in Munich. “It makes us all very happy that we were able to provide genuine help. I would like to thank all the Burda employees for their great support,” says Claus-Thomas Kuhn.
Phillipka von Kleist, a trainee journalist at the Burda School of Journalism who currently works for Burda’s news magazine Focus, was part of the project team; she chronicled her impressions on the ensuing events. She also captured the whole mission in a diary. From the outset, she had no doubts about her commitment to the project: “For me and my generation, it is the first time a war has been so close. I felt and still feel deeply moved – but above all helpless. That’s why I decided to join the Burda aid convoy: I wanted to do something useful and help the Ukrainian people,” Phillipka explains. It was an opportunity for her to help the innocent victims of the invasion, and she experienced many moments she will remember forever:
“Children crying from exhaustion. Mothers comforting them with tears in their own eyes. Old women lying on the floor. Overall, the trip had a huge influence on me. It made me realise again how fortunate we are here. How precious it is to live in peace and security and to be healthy. And how important it is to feel grateful for this privilege.”
Phillipka von Kleist, Journalism Trainee at the Burda School of Journalism