Western Mass. vodka maker heading to Poland to aid Ukrainian refugees
Updated: Mar. 03, 2022, 4:36 p.m. | Published: Mar. 03, 2022, 4:36 p.m.
HADLEY — Paul Kozub said his conscience and his commitment to the people of Eastern Europe made the decision for him.
“I feel I have to go Poland,” said Kozub, whose company, Valley Vodka Inc., will donate $1 for every bottle sold in March to assist refugeees from war-torn Ukraine.
Valley Vodka, headquartered in Hadley, is the maker of V-One Vodka, an award-winning brand that Kozub created. He is expected to arrive at the V-One distillery in Kamien, Poland on Sunday.
The distillery is located about two hours from the Ukraine border, where refugees have been crossing the border in droves.
“I feel such a connection to Eastern Europe. This will be my 60th trip in 17 years, but only my second in the last year and a half,” Kozub said. “I’m overdue. I used to go three or four times a year, but then COVID-19 slowed us down. My last trip was in June of 2021.”
He is not only going to the distillery he owns with a partner, but bringing $5,000 of his own money to support the refugees pouring over the border from war-torn Ukraine. The current exchange rate for currency will work favorably, he said.
“The exchange rate is usually about 3-to-1. But with all that’s been going on, it’s up to around 4-to-1, so my money will be worth 25% more,” Kozub said.
Announcement of his support has been posted on Facebook and other social media outlets. It was not a hasty decision, and the region’s volatility gave Kozub pause.
“I have a wife and four children under 8. I began to think that maybe I shouldn’t go. But I have to go,” he said.
”My life was forever changed for the better when I made my first trip to Eastern Poland 17 years ago to start my craft vodka business. In 2019, I purchased a distillery in Kamień, just a few hours from the Ukrainian border. I feel compelled to do something to help the people of Ukraine.
Kozub owns 51% of the distillery in Kamien. In addition to visiting the plant, he will travel to the Ukraine-Poland border to meet directly with refugees.
His partner in the Kamien distillery has a cousin near the border, where long lines of refugees have been reported. Altogether, Kozub will be in Poland for a week.
“I hear there’s been something like a half a million immigrants crossing,” he said.
Kamień is 219 miles (352 kilometers) southeast of Warsaw.
V-One Vodka has been crafting small batch vodka in Eastern Poland since 2005. It was the first craft vodka made from 100% spelt, a type of grain related to wheat, barley and rye.
It was won several awards and competitions and launched six successful flavors since 2012.
“We’re launching a new flavor, so I was ready to return to Kamien,” Kozub said. “Now, with what has been happening, I feel I have to go.”