Days before Russia declared war on Ukraine, a Vermont businessman began getting his people out of the country, although most employees wouldn’t or couldn’t leave their homeland.
Now, Paul Belogour of Guilford will be using his professional soccer team’s bus to take refugees from war-torn Ukraine back to a hotel he owns in Bulgaria to house them; he’s already housing some of his employees there, too.
Belogour has offices in Sofia and Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, and he also owns FC Pirin, a national football team in the first Bulgarian league. The team is located in Blagoevgrad and has a hotel to house the players.
“FC Pirin is organizing to have the team bus to drive to the border of Ukraine and Poland to pick up as many women and children as we can handle, and bring it back to Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria, for them to be housed at the hotel and other places,” Belogour said.
Belogour owns Boston Unisoft Technologies, a web development firm with key executives based in Ukraine. He also owns Vermont News & Media, Vermont Beer Makers, Viking Farms and other niche and development businesses in the Green Mountain state and globally.
His Ukraine operation was briefly disrupted by the war and having key employees escape to neighboring countries. Since war broke out, business operations have shifted and stabilized.
“We worked out a contingency plan, sending some people to Bulgaria,” Belogour said.
The Belarusian-born American citizen was able to get five of his employees there out of Ukraine; 25 stayed behind.
Those who made it to Bulgaria are staying at the hotel, too.
“Now, it is offering space for some of my Ukrainian employees and their families,” Belogour said.
The football club is calling on all Bulgarian teams to help with the transit of refugees.
Belogour further called on Vermont’s legislators and governor of Vermont to petition the Biden administration to ease travel restrictions for ordinary Ukrainians, so that they can come to the U.S. without the visas.
“It is hypocritical to let the EU deal with all these suffering people, while the U.S. does not allow them to come in,” said Belogour. “I am sure the state of Vermont [and U.S.] will be able to help to resettle the Ukrainian refugees.”