Entrepreneur from eastern Ukraine grows flowers on battlefield

Nov 13, 2017

Maksym Novak, Hirske, Luhansk region

Ukrainian directors have completed shooting inspirational videos about entrepreneurs from Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts for the "Big Stories About Small Business" competition, part of the social video advertising festival organized by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine and the Molodiya Festival. Fourteen young directors and their film crews shot 16 short, inspiring videos about the success stories of entrepreneurs who received a grant from UNDP to launch their own businesses in eastern Ukraine. The winners of the "Big Stories About Small Business" competition will be announced on Nov. 24.

One of videos focuses on the success story of Maxim Novak, a 38-year-old internally displaced person, who built a greenhouse in the town of Hirske, Luhansk Oblast, a few kilometers from the line of contact. The land plot, which he bought back in 2014, had been hit by artillery shells: now there are small coniferous trees and flowers growing there.

"I got a massive amount of pleasure from the filming – it felt like I was in Hollywood,” Novak said. “I’m very grateful to the director Maxim Sukharev and his team for his professionalism and positive attitude during the filming process. We immediately found a common language and seemed to have the ‘same vibe,’ maybe because we share the same first name and the idea for our little film came to us immediately. In the near future we plan to increase our staff and hire two experienced employees. We’re now actively expanding our range of new varieties of juniper and flowers, which were purchased in Poland. We’re doing all we can to keep pleasantly surprising our clients from all over Ukraine.”

Thanks to a UNDP grant of almost UAH 100,000, Novak developed his company and built an industrial greenhouse for growing ornamental plants, coniferous trees, flowers and vegetables. The company now employs three people: Maxim, his wife, and one hired employee. In the future, the businessman plans to further expand the greenhouse area, and he is now engaged in the construction of a new nursery for young plants.

To film Novak’s story and to meet the main character personally, director Maxim Sukharev went to the town of Hirske in Luhansk Oblast. The director admits that his team found the entrepreneur’s idea appealing while they were at the stage of choosing a main character for the film. Sukharev, along with the film crew, stayed in the nearby city of Severodonetsk – to get to the Hirske they had to cross two checkpoints every day.

"The idea of the video was thought up while we were still in Kyiv,” said Marina Traskovska, one of the members of the film crew. “In the concept for the film there was a shot where the main character hugs a dog. I knew we had to find that dog somewhere. At the train station in Lisichansk there were a lot of little furry dogs, and I was joking with the crew that we had to take one with us. I was joking, but I didn’t exclude the possibility that I’d actually have to take one. But when we went to yard of our star to meet him for the first time, we were met by this just incredible Labrador Alma - the perfect actress for the video."

The main goal of the competition is to create a positive image of the eastern regions and, through motivational videos, to inspire others to create their own business.

The winners of the competition will be announced at a special award ceremony in Kyiv Cinema (19 V. Vasilkivska St., Kyiv) on Nov. 24. The prize fund of UAH 55,000 will be split among the winners.

1st place – UAH 25,000 (USD 930)  

2nd place – UAH 15,000 (USD 560)

3rd place – UAH 10,000 (USD 370)

Special award – UAH 5,000 (USD 185)

Background information:

UNDP has provided some 550 grants to launch or develop businesses in Donetsk, Luhansk and other regions of Ukraine. The motivation campaign to boost entrepreneurship among conflict-affected populations is being implemented by the UNDP’s Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme, with the financial support of the government of Poland.

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