When Russia invaded Ukraine, Sukup Manufacturing knew it couldn’t stand by. The Iowa-based company—which manufactures grain storage, drying and handling equipment—has a European counterpart located in Denmark, Sukup Europe, that partners with the Grain House Company in Ukraine. As Russian troops threatened Ukraine, President and CEO Steve Sukup immediately greenlit the effort to help Grain House’s personnel and families get to safety.
“When Russia invaded Ukraine, we immediately said, how can we help?” said Emily Schmitt, Sukup’s chief administrative officer and general counsel. “We called the CEO of Sukup Europe, and his response was, I’m really glad I work for a company where I’m able to say I can help and do what’s needed.”
The mission: Managing Director of Sukup Europe Jens Erik Iversen and Co-Founder of Grain House Company Andriy Semenovych worked together on the effort, gathering the resources needed to make the 1,200-mile journey from a pickup point in Ukraine to a community in Denmark. Sukup’s Iowa headquarters coordinated with its counterparts, offering financial support and even leveraging business connections on the route between Ukraine and Denmark to help move refugees safely out of the country. Determined to overcome any last-minute obstacles, Iversen himself rode in the bus to meet the Ukrainian families at the border—bringing food and clothes and helping to provide asylum assistance.
Since that first caravan, Sukup has organized multiple trips to the border. Through their efforts, they have been able to bring 64 people in more than 20 families to Denmark.
- “Being a family business is not where family ties stop here,” said Schmitt. “It’s really ingrained in Sukup to give back. Every employee isn’t just an employee—they’re family. And their families are our families as well.”
The way forward: Today, Sukup is focused on making sure there’s a continuous and reliable community effort to support the refugees in Denmark. It is working with Danish officials to ensure that the Ukrainian refugees can remain in the country and with the U.S. government to secure temporary work visas that could allow the Ukrainians to go to Iowa. It is also working through the Sukup Family Foundation to continue providing food, clothing and other resettlement resources to the Ukrainian families they’ve evacuated.
The last word: “We’re hearing that there’s upwards of four million refugees coming out of Ukraine now—so this is one grain of sand on the beach,” said Sukup Chairman and NAM Board Member Charles Sukup. “But we’re so proud our people stepped up and did it so rapidly and efficiently. This was the epitome of our history of taking care of each other.”