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Continue producing, even under fire

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The industrial city of Kryvyi Rih is considered the iron heart of Ukraine. Although it is only 60 kilometers from the front, they continue to produce steel here – despite regular air raids. How do they do it?

Vasili Golod

Sparkling sparks reminiscent of a sparkler and temperatures of over 1,500 degrees Celsius – this is what it looks like in a blast furnace when it melts metal.

“We can't leave here and leave everything behind”

The large steelworks is located in the city of Kryvyi Rih, about 60 kilometers from the front in southeastern Ukraine. The sirens are constantly blaring. This means that Russian missiles and drones could hit here at any time.

The work continues, however. “Production is running on a tight schedule, we can't just leave here and leave everything lying around – not even during an air raid,” says Mykola Bojkow. The young man is the shift manager at this blast furnace. “We shut down some processes when there is a particularly great danger. But otherwise we just keep working. That's our job.”

Proud working-class town – despite the war

Boykov has been familiar with the sight of liquid metal since his childhood. “My parents worked here and so did my brother.” At some point he ended up in the steelworks and today he checks that the strict schedule for steel production is adhered to.

They are all proud of their work. Proud of their city. Despite the war. “The people make this place so special because it is a large industrial city,” says Boykov and smiles. “Everyone here is like ants in an anthill. They go to work, they have their own lives, hustle and bustle. Of course there is also time for relaxation. But above all we work.” It is not without reason that Kryvyi Rih is considered the iron heart of Ukraine.

A region rich in natural resources

The Kryvbass, the basin around the large working-class town, is rich in natural resources. Even in the middle of the war, iron ore is mined here – and it continues. Anyone who drives into the town will notice that things really do keep going here.

Kryvyi Rih is probably one of the longest cities in Europe. And it is a city in which the consequences of the war are very tangible. It is not just the almost constant wailing of the siren in the steelworks that reminds the metal workers of the dangers of war. They are also increasingly running out of people.

3,000 employees already mobilized

“We currently have about 20,000 employees, of which about 3,000 are mobilized,” says Serhiy Plitschko, deputy general director of ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih. “That's more than 15 percent.”

ArcelorMittal is one of the largest steel companies in the world. Ukraine's dilemma quickly becomes clear in the company's production halls: the state needs men to protect itself – and the industry needs men to produce steel and remain economically viable.

Steelworks wants to recruit more women

“It takes a long time to train these workers,” says Plitschko. “You can't do it in a few weeks or a few months. And at the same time, mobilization continues.” They don't produce armaments. But their steel is used to build fortifications and shelters. And their tax money is important for the ailing state budget.

How the government plans to solve this problem? Uncertain. That is why the male-dominated steel industry is now trying to actively recruit women.

“We will defend the country.”

Employees like Mykola Bojkow are of military age. “We don't have enough people now, so I'm mostly here in the foundry. You have to help the guys because there's a real shortage.”

And what if he himself is drafted? “Then that's just how it is,” says Boykov. “Then it will be necessary. We will defend the country. For now, we will continue to work as long as we can.”

The ball keeps rolling even in the middle of the war. Because the Ukrainians do not want to let their everyday lives be taken away from them. Even if it is repeatedly interrupted by the siren alarm.

Even during the war, the ball rolls in the working-class town

They continue to work because things keep moving forward in Kryvyi Rih. And as befits a working-class city, there is also a successful football club, FC Kryvbas Kryvyi Rih.

He is currently in third place in the Ukrainian Premier League. The Ukrainians do not want to let this be taken away from them, despite the siren alarm.

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