Lviv  - In western Ukraine, the daily clinking and clamouring of yellow and blue machinery echoes through two workshops outside Lviv city. Here, technical experts carefully and precisely produce armoured glass before installing it in their client’s waiting vehicles. Among the many stories of adaptation amid the war, the survival of this family-run business shines brightly, illustrating the relentless spirit of the Ukrainian people. 

Originally founded in Crimea, the family-run business has endured not one, but two, relocations. First due to the annexation of Crimea in 2014, then a second relocation from Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia region, in the early days of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. 

Anastasiia stands in front of vehicles waiting to have bulletproof glass installed outside one of her family’s Lviv workshops. Photo: Olivia Headon/IOM 2023

“Our first relocation was chaotic,” shares Anastasiia, who runs the business with her father. Yet, even without any help, the family set up shop in Melitopol, a city in Zaporizhzhia region.

A worker turns on one of the machines used in producing bullet resistant glass, painted in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Photo: Olivia Headon/IOM 2023

The business had almost eight years of somewhat stability producing glass for construction, furniture for ambulances and bullet resistance glass for banks. Then, in 2022, the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced the family to flee once again, this time to Lviv region.  

“This time, we didn’t manage to relocate any equipment as there wasn’t enough time. Our equipment is very heavy, around 22 tonnes; it can’t be moved quickly,” Anastasia says. 

Once safely in Lviv, Anastasiia’s father started to re-establish the business once again. He did so this time thanks to a bank loan and business grants from the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The money from the bank could be used to purchase equipment but there was not enough to purchase the raw materials – they had none to begin production. 

‘Bulletproof glass’ is made of different layers of glass and polycarbonate plastics. The plastic film is placed between glass panes and then tempered in a pressure oven. 

Workers move a large pane of bullet resistance glass which will soon be cut into the shape needed for installation into a vehicle. Photo: Olivia Headon/IOM 2023

“It was very difficult for us to buy the materials when we were trying to restart our business. We have to get it from a trusted company in Germany and we didn’t have enough money to buy the bulk amount needed until we received the grant funds,” Anastasiia said. 

Given the impact of the war on energy infrastructure, last winter was extremely difficult in Ukraine and the business could not function through the cold season without heating for their workers. Following a request, IOM also supported the business with a new system to ensure that their heating would not be affected by the electricity shortages. 

Beyond the business's direct impact on the protection of civilians and humanitarian workers, the family has also shown an unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability despite the difficult circumstances that they are operating in. From using recycled oil for heating to ensuring minimal wastage in their production processes, the family business represents a model of eco-conscious operations amidst crises. 

A large vehicle in the process of becoming armoured, which will be used as part of a de-mining programme in Ukraine. Photo: Olivia Headon/IOM 2023

“It was the worst thing I had to do in my life – wake my children up at 5am, telling them not to ask any questions and to rush to the car.”

Anastasiia’s journey deviated from that of the business after they left Crimea in 2014. She did not join her father when he moved to Melitopol. Instead, she, her husband and two children opted for Irpin, a city about an hour from Kyiv, where she set up her own commercial photo studio while still helping her father with marketing. But Irpin was not spared from the war in 2022. 

“It was the worst thing I had to do in my life – wake my children up at 5am, telling them not to ask any questions and to rush to the car.” 

Anastasiia proudly shows photos of their glass that had been damaged during the war but protected the lives of the people inside the vehicles. Photo: Olivia Headon/IOM 2023

Today, Anastasiia has reunited with her father in Lviv and does not want to be separated again, “Because in this situation, in the war, we need to be close to each other and feel safe.” Now, the family is adjusting to a life in a new community, hoping that their family-run business can help as many people as possible.  

The story is not just about a business adapting during challenging times. It is also about the resilience and determination of a family to stay together, support each other, as well as organizations and individuals who are helping those in need.  

The IOM grant given to the family business was made possible through funding from the Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development of the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Development Bank (KfW). 

Written by Olivia Headon and Anna Tsybko from IOM Ukraine. 

SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth