A CHICAGO WOMAN-OWNED BUSINESS IS WORKING TIRELESSLY TO SUPPORT THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM IN UKRAINE
On February 24th, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, starting an unjustified and unwarranted war of unprovoked aggression against a sovereign country. Up until the moment of invasion, neither Ukrainian authorities nor the local public anticipated such a war would unfold. However, weeks before the initial onslaught, the U.S. Department of State and other foreign missions warned citizens of the imminent invasion. Embassies began evacuating ambassadors and offices, and information about Ukraine was all over the media as the risk of invasion heightened. In support of the Ukrainian government and its peoples, AETC proceeded to warn its work partners in Ukraine about the imminent invasion, as well as provide them robust support. In the wake of invasion, AETC sent letters to as many as 15 collaborating organizations, inviting scientists and engineers to stay tuned for upcoming support from AETC.
When the war finally erupted, the Ukrainian economy took an immediate downturn. All existing contracts were cancelled, and people ended up evacuated, along the frontlines, or without work. To support Ukraine during the avalanching crisis, representatives from AETC diverted several projects to Ukraine which were originally planned to be outsourced to other vendors. AETC has specifically prioritized the needs of woman-owned engineering organizations and academic institutions — groups who have been most negatively affected by the ongoing situation, since they are naturally low on the priority list of humanitarian aid missions or the International Defense support communities.
For example, AETC currently sponsors a woman-owned company operating within Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine that focuses on industrial engineering of reactors and furnaces. AETC contracted their Ukrainian team hours after the Russian invasion to develop and perform a detailed engineering of a critical component of a furnace for a current client of AETC who is building an EV battery graphite plant in the U.S. With newfound support, this company has been able to continue with their operations, remaining resilient even as they are only fifty kilometers away from the frontlines. Even with the city of Zaporizhia being shelled multiple times, having their only means of transportation halted, and engineers being unable to work late hours due to curfews, these engineers have been excellent collaborating partners. Even in a situation where one of the engineers found themselves trapped on temporarily occupied territory in the town of Takmak, this company continued with their work. This company even became a shelter for nearby neighbors during bombing raids. All these obstacles faced by the company attest to the bravery of the engineers and scientists working. AETC is extremely proud to be able to assist this company and involve them in our international projects.
AETC also sponsors a national university in Kyiv, Ukraine, where many scientists and professors have signed up for the national guard battalions. With Russian troops retreating from the area of Kyiv, these scientists have slowly come back to work, busying themselves with graphite qualification for use in battery for electric vehicles being built in the U.S. Unfortunately, one Ph.D. scientist who had signed up along the frontlines returned to take care of his brother, who was seriously wounded in a battle for the town of Makarov, a place of one of the first Ukrainian counter-offensive which ultimately led to Russian defeat in the vicinity of Kyiv. AETC is supporting his family monetarily and is also committed to helping others who find themselves in similar situations.
In yet another instance, AETC initiated a project on mineral liberation specific to EV battery-grade graphite ore, working with scientists, engineers and technologists in the front-line city of Kharkiv as well as the industrial hub in the city of Dnipro.
The story would not be complete without saying that AETC’s employees frequently attend rallies in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty held in downtown Chicago. The first, held on February 25, collected $1 million in financial support for the battalion of marines, then defending the city of Mariupol.
Moreover, a number of our customers and clients from Australia, Europe, and the United States have extended their support to Ukraine. One of them continued to pay wages of employees in a plant that it owns as a majority shareholder even though that plant halted it operations when the war began; that allowed the plant to preserve its talent and recently this plant resumed commercial operations, supplying European customers. Another large corporate client of AETC recently resumed the purchase of raw materials from plants in Ukraine, having developed new logistical routes for goods shipped through the western border of Ukraine in response to a blockade imposed by Russia on the Ukrainian seaports. Between AETC and its partners, over $10 million has been raised for Ukrainian resistance, research, engineering, and refugees in the first hundred and forty days of the invasion.
We at AETC are happy to be just a small drop in the overall wave of unwavering support of the Ukrainian fight for the world’s values of rule-based international law, democracy, and freedom of national self-determination. Many of the large OEMs supplied by the industrial graphite and carbon community have pulled their operations out of Russia, as tracked by the Yale University School of Management (https://som.yale.edu/story/2022/almost-1000-companies-have-curtailed-operations-russia-some-remain).
At the end of the day, AETC cares not only about “business as usual,” but also about extending help to those in need. It is difficult to imagine that the Ukrainian people were living normal lives only four months ago and awoke to an unexpected war. It is our duty and moral responsibility to help these individuals because of the commendable actions of the Ukrainian nation, and the bravery of its people working tirelessly to protect the rest of the world from the evils of autocracy. We are grateful to have been able to support such a fight and the most vulnerable parts of Ukrainian society, such as woman-owned business and academic institutions. We will continue to find ways to support Ukraine, and we urge others in our business community to do so as well.