Peter Hossli (text) and Stefan Bohrer (photos) from Savognin
First, he drills a hole in the wooden panel through which he passes the electric wires. Then Sergei Medvedchuck (45) attaches the lamp to a bright wooden house. He says it’s the first building he builds himself. For a week now, the craftsman has been working with three Ukrainian colleagues in a hall belonging to Uffer AG in Savognin GR, an assembly group specializing in wood. The result is a spacious container with a living room, a living room and a bedroom. Only the kitchen and bathroom are missing.
The finished house is to be delivered to Ukraine in July. “In the area around Kiev, many apartments have been destroyed, and in some villages everything is broken,” says Medvedchuck. “Winter is coming soon, homeless families are in dire need of housing.” Until their homes are rebuilt, the containers serve as a place to stay. They are to be created by local Ukrainian craftsmen – trained by the Swiss in Savognin.
Entrepreneurs start an idea
The idea for this project came from Appenzell entrepreneur Martin Huber (66), who is the fourth generation in charge of the window frame factory in Herisau AR. It obtains some of its wood from Ukraine, where it has its branch. His foreman, Medvedchuck, described to him how Russian rockets had destroyed entire villages. Huber wanted to do something – and spoke to Enrico Uffer (51), whom he knows from construction projects in the Engadin. They decided to design a wooden house, build it in Savognin and transport it to Ukraine. There it is to be built in series.
Construction, transportation and training cost money. Who pays? “We don’t really care about it,” says Uffer. “If this question is asked at the beginning, you cannot start such a project.” You want to do something “instead of regretting and shaking your head during the ‘Tagesschau'”. 40 houses should be ready to move in by winter.
Manual work instead of robots
Only Medvedchuck speaks German among Ukrainians. According to Uffer, there was no understanding problem in Savognin. «Craftsmen get along all over the world. They work with their own hands and are of the same race. ” He purposely avoided the use of robots that could build a building in just a few hours. A simple construction kit should be able to be rebuilt using the usual tools and materials available on site.
The supporting structure is made of spruce. Wooden panels make up the walls, ceilings and floors. Electrical and sanitary facilities correspond to the EU standard widespread in Ukraine. With a wood stove, you can heat the house even when there is no electricity. Uffer speaks of a “warm shell”.
So-called little houses were a model: small wooden houses that can be easily moved. A small house for Ukraine cannot be too heavy, because there are no cranes. The container must fit on the truck so that the cargo can pass through customs without any problems.
The truck drove the dismantled house from Savognin to Zurich on June 30. From 7 am, Ukrainian craftsmen will place it in the hall of the main station. Uffer and Huber hope to attract more people and organizations to the project. In Swiss Solidarity, which raised more than 120 million francs for Ukraine, Huber was initially released because he did not have an aid organization certificate. “It’s not the intention that matters, but what you actually do is what counts,” he says. “The certificate will not build you a home.”
A house with a new home
After the start of the Russian attacks, Sergei Medvedchuk went with his wife and two daughters to Herisau to work for Huber. Now he talks about “a shit war where brothers are fighting.” He fell between the fronts: his mother is Russian, father is Ukrainian, he lived in Moscow for a long time. “20 Russian cousins don’t talk to me anymore.”
He is looking forward to returning to Ukraine with his family next week. With him, he has a wooden house from Savognin, which will offer homeless compatriots a new home.