Kees Huizinga between hope and fear in Ukraine: ‘There should be no panic’

It could be, farmer Kees Huizinga must have thought. Huizinga, who comes from Emmen, has been living and working in Ukraine for twenty years, where he conducts his business from Kischenci. It is a place that has not yet fallen prey to Russian attacks, but Huizinga is wary. Because the world already looks very different than it did more than 24 hours ago.

About a two-hour drive south of the Ukrainian capital Kiev and 600 kilometers from the area where Russian forces are trying to control Ukraine, Huizinga didn’t seem too concerned at first. “Nothing is going to happen in western Ukraine,” he told RTV Drenthe yesterday. But the indiscriminate attacks by Russian troops over the past 24 hours have made him decide to make tough decisions.

Because while Huizinga guards his 15,000 hectare farm with 2,000 dairy cows and 400 employees as best he can, he has decided to safely house his family elsewhere. “They traveled to Romania,” he says via a telephone connection that beeps and creaks. When Huizinga is asked whether it was difficult to separate from his family, there is a moment of silence. “I think this is the best decision now. They are in good hands there with friends,” it sounds.

Body on the street

Earlier in the day, the dairy farmer forwarded two films made from Uman, which is thirty kilometers away. The images show destroyed buildings, loud bangs are heard, car windows have been broken and even a body appears to be lying next to a bicycle on the street, covered with a tarp. The fear on the street can be read from the images that Huizinga received. “This is a situation that I never thought would come to this. It is absurd and incomprehensible,” he says, referring to the Russian incursions.

“We are not at a strategic point,” says Huizinga, giving him hope that his company, employees and animals will be protected from bombing. “I haven’t heard the bangs myself yet, but the doors do sometimes vibrate in the jambs here,” he says. Despite the situation in Ukraine, Huizinga seems to be able to keep his cool, because his sense of responsibility is great. “There should be no panic and I do my very best to keep my employees calm,” he says. He will have to give up some of his employees: they perform their military service to defend the country. “How many people is that? I have no idea yet.”

To trust

Huizinga’s employees are very dissatisfied with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he says. “They are furious with him, not so much with the Russian people,” the farmer knows. What awaits him, his employees and his company in the coming days, Huizinga does not dare to say, although he does not see the Russian troops suddenly appearing in Kischenci or, as Huizinga says, the middle of nowhere† “If necessary, we also help. We can supply food to the battalions that are active. But we are not there yet. I am confident that this will work out in the end.”