Ukraine’s “home” front: building back better

While most of us in Europe are preparing for Christmas, life will be extremely different for many Ukrainian families this winter.

Lewis Mackinnon, Investment Manager

The UN Refugee Agency suggests there are already an estimated 6.5 million internally displaced persons as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[1] According to the Brookings Institute, a further 13 million are considered “stranded” within the country’s borders – unable to move due to the ongoing conflict, impassable routes, infrastructure damage, or simply a lack of resources needed to move.[2] Finally, some 7.8 million refugees from Ukraine are no longer in their homeland, scattered across Europe, from neighbouring Poland to more distant countries including the United Kingdom.[3]

As the war continues, the refugee situation is only likely to worsen as Ukraine falls further into the freezing cold winter months. It is unclear what the ultimate goal of Putin’s military operations is, but a ceasefire looks a distant prospect as things stand.

When the conflict does finally reach a conclusion, many of those who wish to return to their home will simply not be able to do so. Around 1 million residential properties are estimated to have been destroyed so far, a number that increases daily. What the devastated Ukrainian landscape will ultimately need is international investment of enormous proportion, a modern-day Marshall Plan to bring the nation back to its pre-war economic footing. This will require a fortune in development aid from other nations and decades of time.

In the meantime, entrepreneurs and philanthropists will be called upon to help however and wherever they can. One particular company that is trying to address the desperate humanitarian situation is Tera Monada.

Modular Home project

In response to the devastation and destruction taking place in their home country, Alex Stepura and his business partner Oleg Pognonyshev created Tera Monada earlier this year. The company is on a mission to build high quality, mass producible housing for Ukrainians who have lost their homes due to the war. Their 3m x 3m factory-built modular units combine and connect to create comfortable, robust living accommodation with fully fitted and furnished bathrooms, kitchens, bedrooms and utilities.

Just $18,000 can deliver a fully working 25msq home fit for a Ukrainian family. The company is already delivering houses based on founder investment and development and is coordinating with the Ukrainian government and local authorities for approvals to use land for the installation of many more homes.

Unique to the Tera Monada design is portability. “We have also tried to think about the future, that displaced persons will want to eventually return to the regions from which they came when the war is over,” said Alex when I spoke to him last month. “Ukraine will need its people to return to the country, to rebuild its economy and society.” A standard Tera Monada unit consisting of three modules can be assembled or disassembled in approximately six hours. A three-module house can be packed into a standard lorry container and so moved very economically. The hope is that Ukrainians will be quick to return to their hometowns and cities if they are able to take their new Tera Monada home with them.

At the moment, the company’s main production site is in Kyiv, but production is now interrupted by power outages and, given the enormous demand, the company is looking to establish a new factory abroad, outside the conflict zone. This will most likely be in Slovakia due to the ability to efficiently source all the necessary materials, attract investment and serve the immediate market in Ukraine.  The business can currently produce 40-50 complete homes per month, when the power is fully available. The immediate expansion plan with a €6m investment should lead to the business being able to ramp up to 1,000 modules (circa. 300 homes) per month.

Tera Monada is even seeing demand from various European countries that are not host to conflict, but where their portable homes may become affordable living quarters for populations in need. “In addition to the production for displaced Ukrainians we’ve had enquiries for orders ranging from the Czech Republic to Spain and Germany, sometimes for economically disadvantaged people and sometimes for temporary ‘camping/glamping’ facilities more associated with commercial leisure and vacation activity,” says Alex. He thinks that this is evidence that the company’s product is more advanced and dignified than most other refugee accommodation available. Tera Monada will operate a dual pricing system: one for commercial enquiries, and a lower one for Ukraine and other charitable causes.

Ultimately, Tera Monada’s work will likely prove to be a drop in the (sadly still expanding) ocean. Economists estimate the cost of rebuilding Ukraine may reach $1 trillion. But Alex and Oleg’s work has already helped many of their compatriots to begin to rebuild their lives. It is stories such as theirs that continue to provide hope for the future of Ukraine and its people.

For more information about Tera Monada, please visit their website.



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