You most likely associate a BRIG RIB with fun in the sun—carefree times when the biggest thing you have to worry about is getting a sunburn. You’d be a lot less likely to associate the company with war, but right now, that’s exactly what everyone left at the BRIG factory is up against.
Unbeknownst to many, BRIG’s production factory is located in Derhachi, Ukraine, only 25 miles from the Russian border. With a glance to the north, you could practically see Russia with your naked eye. Since the surprise missile attack that Russia launched at the end of February, the situation has remained extremely dangerous for the bordering city, forcing the BRIG factory to shut down and most of its near 500 employees, as well as most of the surrounding town, to evacuate.
Some workers, however, have decided to remain as armed guards to the temporarily folded factory.
“They’ve sent us videos patrolling the building, letting us know everything is ok,” said Boyd Tomkies, CEO of BRIG USA.
But Alex Golick, BRIG’s brand manager in Ukraine, noted that just because things were ok days before, doesn’t mean they will be tomorrow. In times like this, conditions are always changing.
“Long-range artillery can hit you at up to 20 to 25 miles; it can hit you from the Russian territory,” Golick explained. “They’re just trying to kill Ukrainians and to destroy the infrastructure; it’s a total genocide.”
About four weeks ago there was some shelling on a nearby gas line that ran past the factory, and some stray shells hit a couple of boats that were stored in the back lot.
As for the rest of the hundreds of workers BRIG employs, some have joined the military service, while others are fundraising and buying things needed for battle logistics from Poland and other countries in the West to help distribute supplies to various areas of Ukraine.
“People just help each other; we have just one simple choice—to survive,” Golick said. “So, everyone is helping each other, that’s the only option.”
Not only are the people of Ukraine helping each other, but BRIG’s international distributors are lending a hand where they can. Many distributors, such as in France and Germany, are keeping their doors open to shelter their Ukrainian coworkers and even driving to the borders to pick them up, Tomkies noted. But, to their surprise, few workers are relying on such aid.
“The situation kind of seems strange to the distributors because not many people want to leave Ukraine,” Golick said. “They say, ‘we are ready, we’ve got money, so if anybody wants to come, we are going to help you,’ and I ask a lot of employees if they need assistance and let them know that outside help is available, but nobody wants to leave Ukraine.”
Although many Ukrainian employees have been able to withstand most of the crisis on their own thus far, if the war continues another month from now—and it could—it’s likely the helping hand will be needed.
“We are sure that our distributor system that’s been built over 25 years will help us to balance the situation as soon as it will be possible to get back to production on this site,” Golick said. “Help will be needed to restore things as soon as possible. We are not thinking to leave the market; we’ve been doing this for 30 years. We are focused on how we can restore the production as soon as possible as the situation will be positive for us, but for now it’s so uncertain and too chaotic for us to draw some kind of conclusion.”
Slava Rodionov, the founder of BRIG, who has been continuing to pay each of the company’s 500 Ukrainian employees since the shutdown, plans to compensate his workers for as long as this situation endures, Tomkies noted. And the company’s charity, the BRIG Family Foundation, which is based in France, will continue to support workers’ families.
Other organizations that are playing a significant role in assisting the country are Sprava Gromad, which serves as the country’s Minute Men, and Come Back Alive, another nonprofit that supports front-line efforts. Organizations like these know what the defending regions need, where all the hottest spots in the conflict are, what current demands are and how to supply them as quickly as possible.