Eight years ago, Petr Krogman sold his thriving agricultural business in the Czech Republic and relaunched it in Ukraine soon after. Now his business is under fire and he may lose it altogether. He started to network all the same and continues to invest.
Life has a sense of irony. Especially when the conversation about the evil of the war Russia has unleashed in Ukraine takes place on a street named after a fallen Soviet soldier.
Coincidentally, the Resilient company of entrepreneur Petr Krogman, who has been building his agricultural business in Ukraine under the Agromino brand for eight years now, has the official Czech headquarters on Churnajevova Street in Modřany, Prague, so it’s hard to avoid the idea of fateful symbolism. And speaking of symbolism: Resilient means resilient, tough, and it’s not just a business, but, as you’ll soon know, its owner.
“Do you see the smoke in the distance? About four hours ago the Russians hit state reserve warehouses with a rocket and it’s still burning because there’s oil,” the 43-year-old businessman points to one screens covering the wall of a large office connected to a kitchen on the floor. floor of a modern villa.
It is on these screens that Petr Krogman can see live his farms spread across central Ukraine and the Kharkiv region. On one you can watch the cows feeding, on the other an empty field after winter. But the smoke about nine hundred yards from one of the cameras is what always catches your worried eye.
But Petr Krogman himself looks calm. Perhaps because this tall, slender man with a piercing gaze has experienced so many tremors in recent weeks that a bomb can’t take him too far. He started doing business in Ukraine in 2014, shortly after the partners sold the Spojené farmy company to Czech real estate tycoon Radovan Vítek for 1.7 billion crowns.
Krogman, who has been in farming since 1996 and managed to make United Farms the largest organic beef producer in the Czech Republic, wanted to take a break from farming. However, when an offer to buy a small farm in Ukraine appeared a few months later, he couldn’t resist. Today it manages 42,000 hectares of Ukrainian land, in which it has already invested 1.1 billion crowns, most of its assets. He can easily lose it now.
When the Russians invaded Ukraine, Petr Krogman behaved the same as the Ukrainians themselves – he refused to give up. He secured $12 million for his business so it could keep running, and paid his employees a month in advance to provide them with a basic emergency supply.
In the Czech Republic, he joined the Freedom in Ukraine initiative, which directly supports the struggle for Ukrainian independence. And although he hasn’t appeared in the media at all in recent years, he now criticizes the Western world’s lack of will to loudly fight Russian aggression.
“It’s none of my business. Even though it was completely over, it was a good time. And I always support my family, I don’t worry about that. I want people to realize that the Ukrainians are also fighting for us, so that the war does not reach our homes and to help them as much as possible,” he says confidently.
Through the cameras of your Ukrainian farms, you watch the war live on monitors. Isn’t that emotionally too demanding?
Hooray. The smoke you see right now is coming from a Ukrainian state-owned company, right behind our farm, which apparently hit some oil reserves. But when you see what the Russians are doing there, destroying the cities… On Saturday, the ceiling of our office in kyiv fell. (shows video on mobile) Last time I was in this office was December 14th.
There is not much to say.
It’s frightening. But Ukrainians are literally fighting for their lives. We are grateful that they do not lose hope. So many people told me that the Ukrainians didn’t stand a chance, but I was convinced from the start that they underestimated them. Czechs underestimate Ukrainians at all, these people in our country take less odd jobs despite being educated. The country has changed enormously in the eight years since it escaped Russian rule. I firmly believe that they are not giving up.
How and from whom did you actually hear about the attack on Ukraine?
Around four o’clock in the evening of February 24, my CEO Petr Toman, who was in Kharkov at the time, woke me up saying that the war had started, that Kharkov was being shelled, that tanks were racing in the streets and fighter planes were flying over the city. With him were other our managers from kyiv.
When war broke out, they immediately began to return to kyiv, and Peter headed for the Czech Republic across the Romanian border. He got there in about 24 hours and from there by plane to Bucharest and then to Prague. He was in the Czech Republic on Friday afternoon. An agronomist who was in central Ukraine and who crossed the Polish border chose another path.
What were you doing at the time?
At that point, we quickly discussed what to do immediately. At 6:16 a.m., I emailed all the employees that we were paying their salaries a month in advance so they would have enough money to buy everything they needed.
What else should be done?
I thought about it a lot. We were advised not to start another collection, but rather to join one that makes sense. That’s why we participate in the initiative www.svoboduukrajine.cz, which helps the Embassy of Ukraine. He actually buys defense equipment.