Romain Kondratiuk, 27, opens the double door of his business. Inside, everything is blackened by flames, part of the roof has collapsed, the windows have disappeared. “We have to start from scratch”he summarizes in a calm tone.
With his business partner and ten-year eldest, Denis Kchibliak, he co-founded Woodanhearts, a do-it-yourself children’s furniture manufacturing company, three years ago. The production is installed in Irpin, the scene of heavy fighting, in March, until the Russian army is forced to withdraw. Before the war, Woodanhearts employed 180 people and exported to 60 countries. It achieved the equivalent of 7.5 million euros in turnover per year. “Fifteen days before the war, we were still investing and hiring”remembers the young entrepreneur.
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On February 23, the eve of the offensive, the company furloughed staff and shut down all machinery. In mid-March, the locals were hit by gunfire. On the 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 restart very quickly, for my country, for my family, to save what I have built and keep our reputation intact”, he said. Woodanhearts works mainly through online sales on large 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 rating”, explains the young entrepreneur. For two months, the company has refunded its customers more than €200,000 of paid furniture that could not be delivered.
In a corner of the workshop, about fifteen employees are already preparing to restart production. The 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 provides the electricity. Romain Kondratiuk hopes to run a small production within eight days. “In six months, we should be back to our previous level of activity, he hopes. At least if we don’t suffer a new attack…”
Ukraine exports 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 like many have been created in the country since 2015, when kyiv signed an association agreement with the European Union granting Ukrainian companies the right to export to the European market without import duties. customs. Local entrepreneurs seized this pole. Woodanhearts has built its success on a range of educational furniture, produced to European standards, and on its ability to communicate on social networks which have opened up an international market for it. Also, Romain hopes to see his country soon become a member of the EU.
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All around the company, in the industrial zone of Irpin, it is the same fever and the same desire to start again. 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 marked by the fighting, remains plunged into darkness.
” A happy life “
Irpin is an agglomeration at the gates of kyiv, built in the middle of the forest, with its parks, its new buildings intended for the new middle class. Real estate advertisements still promise ” a flatfor 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 beginning to return.
“Woodanhearts will survive, believes Romain Kondratiuk. But the crisis is deep. We assess our losses very precisely. When Ukraine wins this war, we hope to obtain compensation. » And Romain Kondratiuk will present the invoice to Russia. There seems no doubt that this time will come.