Sergey Bort, vice president of marketing and strategic business at GP Transco, knew he had to do something when Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine in February. He has deep ties to the country; it his father’s birthplace, his wife is Ukrainian, and his mother-in-law is in a partnership with a man who enlisted in the Ukrainian army after this year’s conflict began, as reported by Transport Topics.
Bort lives in the United States so what aid he could offer was limited. His first step was to reach out to the network he’s created in the trucking industry. After many phone calls and emails to other industry executives Bort launched Trucking & Logistics Professionals (TLPU) for Ukraine. His goal has been to raise awareness on issues Ukrainians are facing as their country is immersed in war.
Alongside the initiative, a website called tlpu.net was released. This gave TLPU an online presence and provided a way for the effort to accept donations. The donations raised by TLPU are given to the International Red Cross, UNICEF, and Save the Children. Since its creation, the initiative has raised almost $2.5 million – all from transportation businesses.
Making such an impact has led to Bort’s 2022 designation as one of Trucking’s Frontline Heroes by Transport Topics. Bort’s intention was not to be recognized for his efforts and he began the effort without considering how successful TLPU may become.
“I didn’t have any expectations to begin with,” he said. “I’ve never done this before, either. It’s a bit awkward reaching out to CEOs and C-suite-level folks … asking if you want to donate.”
The initial awkwardness paid off. Nearly 80% of the companies that Bort reached out to ended up contributing. He said that such generosity opened his eyes to the people who work in the trucking industry. The companies are represented on the TLPU website as a thank you for the support. In the beginning, Bort noticed a trend in the companies that were making donations.
“Initially it was maybe five or 10 companies, and most of them were companies owned by folks who originally were born in Eastern Europe or in the Baltic states,” he said.
Bort has continued to follow the war closely as it has progressed over the past eight months.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “My dad showed me a photo of the building he grew up in, this nine-story building in Mariupol — which is one of the places that suffered the most. Right now, it looks like an apple that someone took a bite out of, because a bomb hit it. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”
Bort attests to the strength of Ukrainian people and is sure that they will continue the battle against the invading Russian forces.
“I’ve seen what a motivated small nation can do when they’re motivated by survival,” he said. “It’s incredible to see they’re fighting. It’s David against Goliath. I think it’s really incredible. And unfortunately, the way I see it, it’s going to last for quite a bit longer.”
Ukraine is in need of immense support so in response, Bort set a goal of raising $10 million in donations. Bort is confident, based on the generosity from the trucking industry, that this goal can be achieved. He said each donation is personally appreciated.
“Every time I told [my wife] about another carrier, another trucking company joining us, she was almost brought to tears — every time — because she was so moved by it,” Bort said. “She’s been in the U.S. for about 10 years, and her family is in Ukraine. So, it’s really phenomenal. I couldn’t be happier with this industry for being so generous and continuing to be.”