"We cannot allow war to become a new normal”
Author: Martin Fyn Aamand, Communications & PR Manager, JYSK
Looking back, Country Director for JYSK Ukraine, Ievgenii Ivanytsia, has no doubt that the past year has been “the hardest of my life so far”.
From one day to the next, reality changed completely in Ukraine.
For Country Director for JYSK Ukraine, Ievgenii Ivanytsia, that meant going from visiting stores and discussing garden furniture to closing all stores to ensure his colleagues’ safety.
“On 22 and 23 February 2022, I was making field visits to our stores in Odesa, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Nova Kahovka, together with Retail Manager Kiril Romanchuk, HR Business Partner Iryna Strokach and District Manager Serhiy Marintsev. We were checking if our stores were ready for the outdoor season, and we followed up on the progress with the rearrangement of our store in Kherson,” recalls Ievgenii in a Teams interview with GOJYSK.com from a store basement during an air alarm.
Early in the morning on the 24th, Ievgenii and his family were awakened by explosions outside the house. It was clear that Ukraine was now under invasion.
“We texted each other in the management team, trying to coordinate our actions, and quickly decided to close all stores for the week. Everything was unclear. Our head office employees were collecting their laptops from their desks, while we could hear helicopters and aircraft noise from above,” says Ievgenii.
"We keep going”
Before the war broke out on 24 February 2022, JYSK Ukraine had 85 running stores in Ukraine, plus three new stores under construction and one store under rearrangement.
One year later, JYSK Ukraine has reopened the majority of stores and plans to open three new stores by the end of the financial year in August. As of 31 January 2023, there were 83 open stores in Ukraine.
“We keep going, we continue signing new leases, opening new stores and rearranging existing stores. We continue serving customers, providing them with critical products, and we support the state. JYSK Ukraine has also supported many charity projects, including migrants, hospitals, and museums. JYSK Ukraine has also involved loyal customers by promoting and collecting funds to finance socially responsible projects,” says Ievgenii and adds:
“It might surprise many people, but despite everything, JYSK Ukraine is currently following all store routines, calendars, policies – as any other JYSK country organisation.”
No compromise on safety
What JYSK Ukraine aims for in stores is that customers see no difference in the shopping experience compared to pre-invasion time.
“We say that JYSK plays an important therapeutic role for Ukrainians. We see customers and visitors are getting relaxed and start smiling when they enter our stores. Customers are thankful to JYSK that our stores are open and that we have stayed with Ukraine during these tough days,” says Ievgenii.
However, despite the JYSK Ukraine team’s willingness to open stores and go to work during wartime, Ievgenii stresses that they do not compromise on safety.
“Our employees’ safety is always the priority for JYSK Ukraine. With this focus, all stores where we could secure relative safety for employees and customers have been reopened during the first few months. Employees and customers have had to get used to stores closing during air alarms when everyone should seek shelter. We still have some stores closed because they were destroyed or are too close to the front line,” he explains.
Not a new normal
From an outside perspective, going to work might seem like the last thing you would want to do during war. But that has certainly not been Ievgenii’s experience.
“I remember how happy employees were the first time they could return to work, to meet customers and their colleagues. People need to do something useful to feel happiness,” says Ievgenii.
He also highlights the attitude and personality of his colleagues as a major reason for their continued activities.
“JYSK gathers great, positive, and hardworking people in Ukraine, who have a tough time sitting still and doing nothing. It is mentally easier to survive this tough time when you are busy and doing a needed job than doing nothing,” he says.
Still, despite his colleagues’ impressive performance in wartime, he longs for brighter days ahead.
“It is so sad to see that Ukrainians are slowly getting used to living in a war, where you are surrounded by tragedies and darkness. We cannot allow this to become our new normal,” says Ievgenii.