Ukrainian textile industry brought seamstresses and machines and set up shop in Guimarães | Fashion

Ukrainian workers and about 40 sewing machines headed to Guimarães after the Russian invasion to continue the production of wedding and formal dresses at a clothing factory in Cherkassy, ​​located 200 kilometers from Kiev.

“About a year ago, when the war broke out, the manager of the Dutch company, who is the CEO [directora executiva] and my friend of many years, called me to ask if I would be willing to help her in the process of creating a Portuguese company that would welcome Ukrainians. The Ukrainians who were working in Ukraine would come to Guimarães, a city she already knows, and there a company would be set up to do exactly what was done in Ukraine”, explains Miguel Pimenta.

The textile engineer by training is responsible for Love Lace, a garment set up in Mesão Frio, in the municipality of Guimarães, belonging to the Maple Group, headquartered in the Netherlands, whose “friend” of Miguel Pimenta, of Ukrainian nationality, is the executive director.

“At the moment there are 20 people working. Two Portuguese and 18 Ukrainians. We have two men, one is a mechanic. Some men managed to leave Ukraine, because they had problems. One has kidney problems, he has to undergo permanent hemodialysis. He managed to leave and in Portugal had to find a way to have the treatments, day in, day out. The other gentleman managed to leave because he has a son with autism. He had to be treated so that the son could have clinical follow-up”, says Miguel Pimenta.

Miguel Pimenta is a textile engineer and in charge of the garment factory
Estela Silva/Lusa

Between fabrics, lace and sewing, the textile workers produce bridal, formal and cocktail dresses on a daily basis, for export to 32 countries and for sale directly or through the website. The “high-end” dresses are, above all, made of lace, with their own brand and design, created by the company itself, which “is almost like an atelier”, according to the person in charge, as it is not a matter of mass production, but before the “making of a dress almost by hand”.

In a single space, on one side are organized the fabrics, lace and material cutting table and, on the other, the approximately 40 sewing machines that, together with other equipment, traveled from the Ukrainian company, based in Cherkassy, ​​to Guimaraes.

Initially, a group of 39 Ukrainians arrived, “who had to integrate and take care of the humanitarian part”, reports the person in charge, adding that, when that part was taken care of, the process of creating the textile production, which is being working since July last year.

“The second part was to set up a company to welcome them, for them to have their work, their wages: the humanitarian part is taken care of, they have a house, they have food, they have documents and, at the same time, having an activity here that it is the continuation of what they were doing there in Ukraine and not losing the production of more than 20 years”, points out the textile engineer.

Throughout this process of changing lives, triggered by the war that began on February 24, 2022, Miguel Pimenta praises the role of Guimarães and public institutions in the integration of these citizens.

Another aspect that had to be resolved was related to the integration of children in schools in the municipality. “We have seven children here. It was another issue we had to deal with, integrating them into schools. There are mothers who have brought children, people who are alone, widowed or separated, and we have a complete family: husband, wife and two children. they have a house, they already live well”, continues Miguel Pimenta.

Returning to Ukraine is the desire of some of these workers. “Home is always home. I think that Portugal is a country that they like, because it works. Portugal works. Those who brought their family, will stay here, in my opinion. Those who are alone, will probably return to Ukraine. If they don’t go to Ukraine, they will bordering countries: Poland, Lithuania or even Germany”, predicts Miguel Pimenta.

As for the future of the company in Portugal, that seems to be guaranteed. “This project will continue. The idea is to further strengthen production. Production must have at least [mais] seven to eight seamstresses, whether Ukrainian or Portuguese, but the company will obviously continue”, assures the person in charge of Love Lace.

Olga Melnyk, 30 years old, was one of the employees, who also works as a translator, who came to Guimarães. “We are very grateful to the Portuguese people for all the help and warm welcome at all times since we arrived here. We weren’t expecting so much. We hope that the war ends very soon, obviously with Ukraine’s victory. relatives who are in Ukraine every day and we hope to return once the war is over”, she says hopefully, in almost perfect English.

Olga Melnyk, 30, works at Love Lace clothing
Estela Silva/Lusa

According to city data, Since the beginning of the war, Guimarães has welcomed 234 citizens from Ukraine. Of these, “85% are graduates/masters”, who “work in several companies and IPSS [Instituições Particulares de Solidariedade Social] of the county”, says the municipality. “Others work online for the jobs they had before the war. Children and young people are integrated into our schools and a young woman entered university in Porto. Other young people continued their university course online and the older ones are retired”, he informs.

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