Kyiv, February 2023
Dmytro Yarynych, you are the art director of Osnovy Publishing. How has your business changed since war broke out?
At the end of 2021, before the war started, we had opened a new flagship store in the city centre. With effort and money we made it a very nice place with a posh coffee bar, nice kitchen and a reading room. But now we sublet it as we don’t have enough books to showcase there.
We’ve also had to sublet our office due to electricity and internet issues, not to mention the frequent alarms and the fact that many of our staff had a long drive to the office in the city center of Kyiv. Right now I’m sitting at the gas station which has become a co-working space.
Most gas stations here are equipped with a supermarket and diners, so it’s a good working environment. Today I’ve got many meetings and tasks and I came here for the steady internet connection as I didn’t know if I’d have electricity at home.
“Luckily, we are not focused on the quantity of books, it’s more about quality and having fun”
Osnovy publishes illustrated books about art, visual culture, design and photography. Have you shifted the focus of the titles you publish because of the war?
The book market shrank by around 50% due to the price inflation. People are buying fewer books, because they simply can’t afford them anymore. Last year we only published a few titles – mostly books which had been created before the war.
Unfortunately, we can’t keep up with our previous schedule of publishing 10-15 titles per year. Luckily, we are not focused on the quantity of books, it’s more about quality and having fun. We now just publish four visual books a year, introducing Ukraine’s artistic and creative industries to a foreign readership. After all, we have a lot to show to the world.
We now have an amazon store as well as connections to many small bookstores around the globe. So far it is going fairly well – after all, as a small independent publishing house we don't need to sell tens of thousands of books.
“Another book in the pipeline is on the impact of war on architecture”
What are you currently working on?
Currently we have put together UANDERWEAR, an interdisciplinary book on the Ukrainian lingerie and underwear scene. There are hundreds of brands, small and medium companies, that continue to work amid the war. Our new book includes interviews and personal stories as well as designs and photo shoots.
Similarly, we’re going to take a closer look at other small Ukrainian businesses, for example, those that make leather goods, candles, toys, or baby products and more. Meanwhile, we will look at the Ukrainian Restaurant scene, which surprisingly is in pretty good shape despite the war. A dozen of new restaurants and cafés opened in the summer with great cuisine and design. I recently went to a big new eatery in the city centre, and it was crowded.
Another book in the pipeline is on the impact of war on architecture.
“We are doing everything we can and keep adjusting how we work”
How are you managing financially?
At times we didn’t have money to pay the salaries and thought we were running out of funds for good. So we asked for payment in advance and applied for cultural grants and it worked out just in time.
Where do you produce your books?
We make them in Charkiw, eastern Ukraine. They have huge printing facilities and keep working but are often under fire, which poses a risk.
We also keep recalculating our production prices every two weeks as most of the resources are imported. We are doing everything we can and keep adjusting how we work. Considering the current situation, we could be doing worse than that.
The interview was conducted by Atifa Qazi