Romain Kondratiuk, 27, opens the double doors of his business. Inside, everything is blackened by the flames, part of the roof has collapsed, the windows have disappeared. “We have to start from scratch”he sums it up in a calm tone.
With his business partner and ten years his senior, Denis Kchibliak, he co-founded Woodanhearts, a do-it-yourself children’s furniture manufacturing company, three years ago. The production is installed in Irpin, scene of intense fighting, in March, until the Russian army is forced to withdraw. Before the war, Woodanhearts employed 180 people and exported to 60 countries. It reached the equivalent of 7.5 million euros of turnover per year. “Fifteen days before the war, we were still investing and hiring”remember the young entrepreneur.
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On February 23, the eve of the offensive, the company ceded employees and shut down all machinery. In mid-March, residents were hit by gunfire. On site, everything burned, including the expensive CNC machines used to sand and paint the wooden parts.
A global market thanks to Amazon
Despite everything, Romain is confident: “I want to start over very quickly, for my country, for my family, to save what I’ve built and keep our reputation intact”, he said. Woodanhearts works primarily through online sales on major platforms like eBay or Amazon. Its market mainly targets the United States and Germany. “On these sites it is very important to maintain a good ranking”, explains the young businessman. Over two months, the company returned more than €200,000 of paid furniture that could not be delivered to its customers.
In one corner of the workshop, about fifteen employees are already getting ready to restart production. Activity is in full swing between those who sweep, those who clean the few machines still intact and those who nail boards in place of windows. A generator supplies the electricity. Romain Kondratiuk expects to run a small production within eight days. “In six months, we should be back to our previous level of activity, He waits. At least if we don’t suffer another attack…”
Exports from Ukraine to the EU without customs duties
Relaunch activity to help Ukraine resist. “Here, we are at home, we are fighting for our land”, he said. Woodanhearts is an industrial SME as many have been created in the country since 2015, when Kiev signed an association agreement with the European Union granting Ukrainian companies the right to export to the European market without import duties. Local businessmen took over this pole. Woodanhearts has built its success on a range of educational furniture, produced according to European standards, and on its ability to communicate on social networks that have opened up an international market for it. Furthermore, Romain hopes to see his country soon become a member of the EU.
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Throughout the company, in the industrial zone of Irpin, there is the same fever and the same desire to start over. Teams from the Ukrainian national electricity company are replacing the broken cables. Individuals are unloading new windows and a washing machine to replace the stolen one. At nightfall, the city, still scarred by fighting, remains plunged into darkness.
” A happy life “
Irpin is an agglomeration on the outskirts of Kiev, built in the middle of the forest, with its parks, its new buildings intended for the new middle class. Real estate ads still promise ” an apartmentfor a happy life” in one of the many ongoing real estate programs. Many of the buildings are intact, others have gutted and blackened facades. Since the demining was carried out, some residents are starting to return.
“Wooden hearts will survive, believes Romain Kondratiuk. But the crisis is deep. We measure our losses very accurately. When Ukraine wins this war, we hope to get compensation. » And Romain Kondratiuk will present the invoice to Russia. There seems to be no doubt that that moment will come.