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“These people are not just members of staff to us”: Cinegy’s 3,000 km trip to collect its female Ukrainian workers

Cinegy's Daniella Weigner talks to TVBEurope about the company's mission to rescue a third of its Ukraine-based staff

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the management team at Cinegy decided to drive 3,000 kilometre to bring members of the team and their families back to Munich.

The company has around 31 people working in Ukraine, handling both research and development as well as client support.

Cinegy’s CEO Jan Weigner, Michael Zolotuskiy and three other colleagues made the trip to the Ukraine/Poland border, collecting four members of staff and their families, bringing back 16 people in total to Cinegy’s development office.

“Some of our team are staying with friends in Ulm, and a couple of people stayed in Poland because they have connections there,” Cinegy managing director Daniella Weigner tells TVBEurope. “We have more women who are coming over the next few days via train. That means all of our female members of staff will be out of the Ukraine by the end of this week, 11 ladies that work for me will be back in Germany as well as 28 family members including them.”

Daniella Weigner

Weigner explains that the senior team at Cinegy had been watching events in the run-up to Russia’s invasion on 24th February. “I was talking to Volodymyr Sydorenko, who heads up our office in Ukraine, two and a half weeks ago about who we could bring out of the country if the worst to happen. Obviously a lot of them didn’t want to leave their families. Our message was always come to the border and we’ll come and get you and help you. And so when it came to it, that’s what we just did.

“These people are not just members of staff to us, they’re our family,” she adds. “I’ve known most of them since they started for Cinegy. Some of them like Polina Federova, our head of support, have spent their whole career with us. She’s married to our head of development Alex, they’ve got two kids. I know them, they’re not just employees, they’re people who’ve spent their lives working for us.”

Weigner describes the trip to the border as the least the company could do. “I know what we’re doing is a small part and I know lots of other companies are collecting money and donating time and resources. I’ve had many of our partners from all over the world, from places you wouldn’t expect, contacting me to ask how they can help. We’ve had clients in Poland team up and go to the border and pick up strangers, families and bringing them to safety. Speaking to some of the women that we’ve brought back to Munich, they were very grateful that they knew people here. The authorities have been fantastic so far, very flexible.”

“A third of Cinegy Ukraine will have made it out by the end of this and that’s brilliant,” she states.

In total, around 30 male employees remain in Ukraine, with those who have not been called up or volunteered to fight continuing to work for the company. “When this all kicked off, like six o’clock in the morning, they were still working, still logging tickets,” explains Weigner. “To see that dedication that these guys have is amazing. I know that they’re looking for a bit of a distraction, but they’re still there, they are trying their very best. The women that we have back in Munich want to get on and work because they want to support the men back home. We’ve got some amazing people.”

Weigner has helped set up a support group on LinkedIn, titled Support for Ukrainian Media Professionals, where people can find out how to help. It includes links to GoFundMe pages as well as practical advice. The group currently has over 250 members.