Help for The Sake of Bread

From the onset of the invasion, the Chernihiv region bore the brunt of the Russian aggressor’s onslaught. The region was subjected to daily artillery and aerial bombardments. Fearing the prospect of starvation, residents began stockpiling bread.

Olha Zaika, the director of Chernihiv Bakery No. 2, tells that the demand for bread surged two to three-fold from the very first day. Despite the overwhelming demand, the bakery successfully doubled or even tripled its production to meet the needs of the people, thereby preventing panic and ensuring everyone had access to bread.

Working Under Fire

Zaika recalls the early days of the great war, when they were inundated with calls from locations where people had taken refuge. If a shelter housed more than 500 people, the bakery would deliver bread using its own vehicles. For smaller shelters, volunteers would purchase bread from the bakery and distribute it throughout the city.

One volunteer, reflecting on his experience on Facebook, shared how the war made him realize the true value of bread. He recalled how eagerly children and adults awaited his delivery vehicle in the shelters. Children would rush towards him, eager to receive a warm loaf of bread. The simple act of eating half a loaf of bread held more value than any other luxury at that time.

The director shares that some employees left the country with their young children, while others stayed back to work and care for their elderly parents. Women chose to wait at home for their sons and husbands, who had joined the army to defend their homeland.

“In those days, we did what we could to get to work. Those who lived nearby would walk. The driver would wait for a lull in the shelling before quickly embarking on a designated route to collect other workers and transport them to the production site,” Zaika recounts.

Photo: Olha Zaika, Director of Chernihiv Bakery No. 2

The city was under a state of light camouflage, with darkness prevailing. Due to the power grids damaged from the shelling, many places were without electricity or water. However, the gas supply remained intact, as the gas pipes were still undamaged. It allowed the bakery’s ovens to continue operating. Power outages posed a significant challenge, often resulting in fermented dough left in the proofer overnight.

During these times, rescuers stepped in, equipping the company with a 100 kW power generator. The water utility supplied water, which was then pumped in. Thanks to these efforts, the bakery’s staff had the necessary resources to continue baking bread.

A Fortuitous Grant Discovery

“As we approached this winter, we were already prepared. Previously, we maintained a two-week supply of flour, as storage constraints made it impractical to keep more. Now, our stockpile would suffice for a month’s work, or even longer. Even if supply routes were disrupted, we could still provide the city with its most essential product. We learned this lesson from the previous winter,” the company’s director states.

“We also safeguarded ourselves against power outages by procuring a 450 kW power generator. It will supply us with energy in the event of power failures or grid damage. If the centralized power supply is disrupted, the generator will automatically kick in. This will preserve the dough and bread, allowing us to continue baking for an additional two to three days without electricity.”

Olha Zaika stumbled upon the opportunity to secure aid for her company quite fortuitously. Her family’s morning routine mirrors that of most average Ukrainian families: adults prepare for work, while children head off to kindergarten or school. As Olha tends to the children, her husband brews coffee for breakfast and catches up on the news, sharing any interesting or important updates with his wife.

One day, he came across a news item about grants from East Europe Foundation for businesses in several regions, including Chernihiv. “Send me the link,” she requested. The company she manages had never participated in competitions or grant programs before. But Olha realized that in these challenging times, they needed support!

A New Oven for Efficiency and Autonomy

She decided to print out the competition program and convened a meeting with the economists. As the program focused on energy savings, the company resolved to purchase an Impex Rotor electric rotary convection oven. The existing gas ovens generate high CO2 emissions.

Moreover, it is crucial to ensure safety in case the plant loses its gas supply. They already possess an electric generator, and acquiring an electric oven would grant them a certain degree of autonomy, a vital attribute for such an enterprise during wartime.

Together, they developed a proposal for the grant competition, demonstrating calculations on how the oven would reduce emissions. The economists computed the necessary metrics. They submitted the documents, albeit with no expectations of winning.

“Not a single person at the company believed in it,” the director reminisces. “I was at a meeting when Lyudmyla Konstantynivna, our chief economist, wrote: ‘Olha Mykhaylivna, they say we won a grant! Can you believe it?’ ‘I can’t imagine,’ I replied.

We contacted the Foundation. And when we learned that our company had indeed won, it sparked a tremendous surge of emotion among all employees. We remained in the country to work for those who need our product. And we are sincerely grateful for the support. In fact, this is assistance for the entire region that consumes our products, as we supply bakery products to the entire Chernihiv region.”

Photo: Olha Zaika and Victor Liakh (President of East Europe Foundation) beside the newly purchased oven

With the new oven, the company has created ten additional jobs, leading to increased tax contributions to local budgets. Production output has also risen.

The company now aspires to acquire a proofing cabinet, a “companion” to the new oven from East Europe Foundation. The cabinet is essential as it maintains the optimal humidity and temperature for dough growth.

For Your Information

As part of the Power Up! initiative, Chernihiv Bakery No. 2 has been equipped with a state-of-the-art rotary convection oven, enabling the baking of bread without the need for gas.

This project was conceived by East Europe Foundation with the aim of implementing energy efficiency measures across ten enterprises in the Sumy, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv Oblasts.

The Power Up! project is implemented within the program Promotion of Energy Efficiency and Implementation of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive in Ukraine, executed by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the governments of Germany and Switzerland.

Upon successful implementation of the Power Up! project, it is projected that the total annual energy savings for the chosen ten enterprises will reach a minimum of 3000 MW/year.