Running a small business is never easy, but imagine doing so in the midst of a full-scale war, where even a Russian missile strike can’t deter your determination. That’s the reality faced by Fadir Tools, an artisan toolmaker located in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, the owner of Fadir Tools, Serhii Ivin, didn’t hesitate to close his factory temporarily. Instead, he picked up a pump-action shotgun and joined the defense efforts to protect his city. During those intense weeks, a Russian rocket landed dangerously close to the factory, leaving Serhii and his team holed up in the basement.
Despite joining a Ukrainian army scouting unit full-time, Serhii made the courageous decision to reopen his forge after three months, entrusting the day-to-day operations to his foreman. Fadir Tools specializes in crafting hand-forged axes, carving knives, and other woodworking tools.
Fadir Tools is just one of thousands of Ukrainian firms that have remained open for business, resiliently keeping the country’s economy running despite the formidable challenges posed by the war.
Serhii Ivin shared his motivation for continuing business operations during a brief leave from the frontline: “We pay salaries and we pay taxes, and it is important we should carry on. Someday the war will end. We want to save this place and this business, and we want to save the team because people want to eat, they want to have a future. And the rest of the world needs tools.”
Upon returning to the forge in May of the same year, the team discovered the aftermath of a Russian missile strike on one of the outbuildings within their compound. The shock wave had obliterated the roof of the main office. Despite the adversity, their first task was to fulfill the 600 orders that were pending from before the war. Serhii Ivin recalls, “We had several people, and we opened our factory and started to make those orders for clients who had already paid.”
With a considerably reduced workforce, it took them until October to complete the backlog of orders. Remarkably, most customers, primarily located in the US and Western Europe, showed understanding and solidarity. “A few people wanted their money back, but most were happy to wait for their tools to be delivered, seeing it as a symbol of solidarity with Ukraine,” Serhii explained. Some customers even requested that the money for their orders be directed towards the war effort, while others sent donations to support their cause.
The forge, on the day of The Guardian’s visit, buzzed with activity. Craftsmen tirelessly hammered red-hot metal into axe heads, and workers meticulously honed the edges of custom-made woodcarving knives.
Yet, the challenges are undeniable. Serhii acknowledged, “It is harder than before the war because people don’t trust to buy something from Ukraine, because they think the war is everywhere. It is hard for them to understand that Kharkiv is now mostly quiet. Missiles still hit, but life goes on.”
To combat this trust issue, Fadir Tools launched its own online store to directly reach customers, bypassing concerns raised by online marketplaces.
Despite the hardships and the toll the war has taken on their team, with some members directly affected, the spirit of resilience prevails. The commitment to craftsmanship, quality, and the belief in the enduring need for tools sustains Fadir Tools, serving as a symbol of hope amid adversity.
As they continue their work amidst adversity, one thing is clear: Fadir Tools is not just crafting tools; they are forging resilience, determination, and hope for a brighter future.