Ukraine: One month after the attack on the Kharkiv printing house, a heavy impact on publishing

Ukraine: One month after the attack on the Kharkiv printing house, a heavy impact on publishing
Ukraine: One month after the attack on the Kharkiv printing house, a heavy impact on publishing

Original article signed by Oksana Khmelyovska and Olesia Boyko on Chytomo and available at this address.

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On May 23, a Russian missile attack destroyed Factor Druk, the main company producing books and publishing products in Ukraine, dealing a severe blow to the country’s publishing industry. The attack killed seven people, seven employees of the company, seven highly qualified professionals.

But that’s not all. The explosions caused by the missiles destroyed expensive machines that were difficult to replace in wartime, leading to a decline in orders – and therefore new releases – and a likely increase in the price of books. The Russian attack on Factor Druk also has an impact on the education sector, since the printing house produced 40% of the school textbooks used in Ukraine.

Employees, their lives and their work

The attack on Factor Druk is a huge human tragedy – yet another since the Russian invasion of Ukraine – but also a professional one, as it affects the entire content industry. The victims were highly skilled professionals with years of experience, and their loss is deeply felt – even in terms of lost skills – by the entire publishing community.

Oleksandr Popovychdirector of Unisoft – another major Ukrainian printing house, already damaged by Russian attacks in recent months – said he was saddened by the event, “because many employees of Factor Druk had personal and professional relationships with us.”

The war, says Oleksandr Popovych, forces people to abandon their cities and their jobs, in an attempt to find safety or to go and fight: “22 Unisoft employees are on the front lines and one of them was killed.”

Not to mention that Factor Druk and Unisoft are not the only companies in the Ukrainian publishing chain that Russia has struck. In March, a missile attack was launched against Hurov and Co., and in July 2022, another one seriously damaged, almost destroying, Print House, another printing house. That same year, Russian missiles also struck the logistics center of the Ranok publishing house.

“The loss of life is the most devastating aspect of this tragedy, commented Viktor Kruglovdirector of the Ranok publishing house. While equipment can be replaced, the people who lost their lives during the attack are irreplaceable, from a human and professional point of view. The war also leaves us with a chronic shortage of qualified personnel.”

Printing deadlines

Tetiana Hryniukgeneral manager of Factor Druk, explained that the company is currently looking for used machines to replace those destroyed by the attack, as buying new ones would be prohibitively expensive. In the meantime, the company is removing debris caused by the explosion and rebuilding the roof.

Factor Druk’s annual production capacity of 10 million books – one third of all books printed in Ukraine – cannot be matched by other printing houses, leading to delays in deliveries of new releases.

In addition to the delays, Viktor Kruglov predicts that the Russian attack on Factor Druk will lead to an increase in the cost of books. A scenario aggravated by power outages, shortages of materials and potential new bombings in the Kharkiv region, where many printing plants are located.

The impact on education

At the time of the bombing, about 3% of textbooks for Ukrainian schools for the next academic year were being produced at Factor Druk. The complex used to print 40% of all teaching materials for Ukrainian schools annually, and now production has been completely stopped. Among the consequences of the Russian attack, one of the most significant concerns the production of textbooks.

“While fiction book releases may be delayed, textbooks have strict deadlines. The Department of Education puts out textbook tenders in the spring, and publishers must print and deliver ordered publications to schools before the start of the summer, making timely production crucial.”and raconté Viktor Kruglov.

Damage assessment

Factor Druk’s losses from the attack, including destroyed and damaged equipment, are estimated to exceed $8.5 million, while over 100,000 pounds are believed to have been lost.

Tetiana Hryniuk estimates that the restoration of the printing house could take up to six months.

What funds for the recovery?

Neither publishers nor printing houses will receive compensation for the damages suffered during the Russian attacks, as insurance companies refuse to insure Kharkiv businesses. Private and public aid therefore becomes crucial to restore the operability of the affected companies.

Since the attack, readers have mobilized with donations and purchases to support the Factor group and the affected publishing houses. The carrier Nova Poshta intervened on behalf of the publishers by offering free delivery on books: in one month, it delivered 19,492 orders placed on the Vivat website, four times more than the previous month. Since the attack in Kharkiv, Vivat has shipped almost 28,000 orders and still has 8,000 pre-orders waiting to be printed.

The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered the Ministry of Economy and the Kharkiv regional government to provide state support to the publishing sector. However, it is too early to talk about government financial assistance for the recovery, as Ukraine does not have a consolidated mechanism for providing financial aid to private businesses.

A major boost to Ukrainian publishing could come from the European Commission’s decision to purchase books in the country for public libraries.

Russia dealt a devastating blow to Kharkiv’s printing capacity just a week before the Book Arsenal international festival, one of the main events of the Ukrainian publishing industry. In solidarity with Factor Druk and the affected publishers, the festival hosted the exhibition “ Books Destroyed by Russia”, where charred publications were exhibited and visitors could donate for the reconstruction of the printing house via a QR code. The highly visible exhibition will now travel to various countries to support the Ukrainian publishing industry.

About Chytomo: « What is read » in French, is the leading independent web magazine on contemporary publishing and cultural processes in Ukraine. It was founded in 2009 by Iryna Baturevych and Oksana Khmelyoska, two observers of editorial markets in major Ukrainian media and various American professional media. For two years we have been trying to inform our international colleagues about what is happening with Ukrainian publishing, writing in English. But due to electricity limitations, bombings and lack of advertising budgets of Ukrainian publishers, it is becoming almost impossible for us to continue to run our independent media. », explains to Livres Hebdo Iryna Baturevych, calling for help via the Patreon platform. Find Chytomo at this address, on LinkedIn and on X.

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