Hapag-Lloyd’s remaining Ukrainian staff are safe and well, according to an executive who fled the country in February.

Oleksandr Dobrovolskyi, manager of business administration at the German container line’s office in Odessa, made it across the border at the last second and was able to bring his family to safety.

“When the war started I grabbed my wife and children and fled across the border, just before the announcement that all men between the ages of 16 and 60 must stay according to the martial law act declared by our government and president the next day,” he said.

Dobrovolskyi added that the whole Ukrainian team is connected online.

“We exchange information weekly about the current situation in Ukraine and the situation of the individual team members,” he said.

Fourteen out of 20 personnel are still in Ukraine, many of them in Odessa or near the European border.

“At this time, there are no fully secured locations. However, the current locations are safer than other parts of the country in the east or northeast of Ukraine, such as Mariupol, Kyiv and Kharkiv,” the manager explains.

Dobrovolskyi and his family have been in Genoa, Italy, for just over a month.

“With the great support of my colleagues here, we have been able to overcome the first phase of shock and desperation. Still, this is a big stress, especially for my wife and my two daughters, two and nine years old,” he said.

He and his family made it to Italy by car, crossing five countries in four days.

Support found everywhere

“Everywhere I experienced the support of ordinary people for Ukrainians,” the executive told the company’s website.

“For me, there is no big difference between Ukrainians, Slovenians, Italians — we all have families, jobs, and hobbies; our kids are going to school,” he said.

Dobrovolskyi describes being “torn” from his daily life.

“My eldest keeps asking when she will be able to rejoin her friends back home in Odessa, to return to school and friends. My first priority is the safety of my family. It was not easy for me to leave my country and home behind,” he said.

“The lives of 40m people in the middle of Europe were destroyed by the cruelty and sick ambition of a group of people from the East. This is terrifying and it can happen in any other country. I believe this can be stopped only with the solidarity and unity of all of us,” he added.

The manager said he has been shocked by the level of support received from Hapag-Lloyd and its staff.

“The support my colleagues and receive is more than enough, and we are sincerely grateful for it. I can only appeal to continue in this way, as we are not the only ones experiencing grief. Millions of people are in hard-to-reach regions or on the run in and outside our homeland,” he added.