Light in the darkness

Each of the last few years seems to have brought with it some new calamity that was even worse than the last. And then, just when it seemed that there might be a flicker of light at the end of this long, depressing tunnel, along came the invasion of Ukraine

There have been many dark and scary moments in recent human history, but despite all of them, Putin and his regime have managed to make the world an even darker and scarier place with its unprovoked aggression and the threat this poses to democracy and human rights everywhere, as well as the death and suffering it is bringing to the innocent Ukrainian population. However, my faith in humanity has suddenly been rekindled: by the response to this military barbarism – not just by governments, but by companies and ordinary people. And I find it especially encouraging that the property scene, especially in our part of the world, has been playing a leading role in this. The entire sector seems to have thrown itself into providing aid and shelter to the victims of the war. In this column I would like to highlight a few of the many examples of the simply wonderful response by the real estate community to this tragedy.

Since the beginning of the invasion, around 4 mln refugees have fled across Ukraine’s western border, 2.3 mln of which have come to Poland – and the number continues to grow, as does the need to provide shelter and other necessities for these innocent victims of the conflict. Strabag has made several of its properties available for humanitarian purposes, including its recently acquired Plaza shopping centre in Kraków. The vacant mall has been handed over to the city for use as warehouse centre for the collection of necessary articles for refugees, while about 500 temporary accommodation places have been created inside it. Similarly, the company has provided 200 beds for refugees to Warsaw city council in the Atrium International Business Center and plans to ultimately increase the number to 400. Polish hotel chain Arche Group, meanwhile, has announced that it is ready to accommodate 5,000 refugees in its hotels across the country, having already taken in 1,000. Swedish developer Skanska, which is active across the CEE region, has pledged to donate SEK 10 mln (EUR 940,000) to the UNHCR and the Red Cross to help both those fleeing the war and still in the conflict zone, while a building in Warsaw that was due to be demolished has been handed over to the city and repurposed for displaced people. Many Ukrainians are employed in the construction sector across the region, which has prompted Erbud to set up a fund for Ukrainian employees and those of its subcontractors. The firm has also donated PLN 1.5 mln to Polish Humanitarian Action, a charity that provides aid in Ukraine. More than EUR 1 mln of aid to the country is to be delivered by Slovakian developer Penta, whose employees themselves have already raised EUR 110,000. The company’s hospital division is also to provide medical supplies to Ukrainian hospitals, while refugees will be able to receive free medical treatment in its hospitals in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Industrial developer VGP has pledged EUR 3 mln for the support of refugees in Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Meanwhile, Hungarian developer Futureal-Cordia-HelloParks is donating EUR 760,000 in addition to funds raised by its employees for humanitarian projects in Hungary, Poland and Romania. The group is also making suitable properties in Budapest, Warsaw, Gdańsk and Wrocław, available as accommodation, including rental apartments. Czech residential developer Central Group is providing shelter for refugees in a newly-acquired office complex in Prague and has donated CZK 20 mln (EUR 800,000) to a mother and child hospital in the city for the care of pregnant Ukrainian women and newborn children. In the industrial segment, Prologis is providing storage space for humanitarian goods for non-profit organisations and local authorities. It has also donated EUR 100,000 to the Red Cross and has promised to match each EUR 1 donation by its employees to the charity with another EUR 2 of its own. Czech developer CTP has committed EUR 10 mln for refugees to the UNHCR and is handing over vacant warehouse space for the use of relief agencies in Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and in its home country, where it is also providing accommodation in hotels and in its own residential developments.

Apologies to any company whose contributions I haven’t been able to list here. Each of them are invaluable in terms of easing the plight of the Ukrainian people, who are all in our thoughts right now. May their ordeal come to an end as soon as possible.