For nine years, the enterprise "NPC DESPROFMED" helped large and small institutions in Ukraine to be safe. The company provided disinfection, deratization and disinsection services throughout the country. But at the beginning of the Great War, the warehouse with production equipment and materials was completely destroyed. The business had to start almost from scratch, and a microgrant from the EU4Business programme helped them to do so.
Experience gained over the years
The history of the company began in 2014. At that time, one of the founders, Yaroslav Kichula, had already led a team working to prevent the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. Thanks to the knowledge and experience gained over many years, the professional team formed a new enterprise – "NPC DESPROFMED" LLC.
Yaroslav became the commercial director, and his wife Liudmyla Kundelska took the position of company director. For nine years, the company has been working to provide disinfection and pest control services in the Kyiv region and many other regions of Ukraine. Among the company's clients are the Verkhovna Rada, the Cabinet of Ministers, law enforcement agencies, the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, educational and healthcare institutions, and a great number of food industry operators.
"We never declared that we are the best. Yet, we showed it in our work. Sometimes clients left us for other organizations, and later returned and stayed with us for years," proudly says Yaroslav.
The company was constantly evolving: European standards were implemented, the quality of services improved, employees were regularly upskilling and reskilling. In 2018, on the initiative of Yaroslav Kichula, a special course was created at the Department of Agricultural Products Processing of the Institute of Postgraduate Education of the National University of Food Technologies (NUFT).
"We sought to establish a nationwide training system. The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health agreed with us," says Yaroslav. "In this way, we introduced the training course for professionals in our industry on the basis of NUFT. Both administrative and technical staff are trained here. I am the curator of this course."
According to Mr Kichula, disinfection professionals must constantly acquire new knowledge, because the field is developing, new technologies and safer methodologies are emerging. After completing the training, everyone must pass a mandatory exam in order to confirm their competence to be able to work further in this domain.
Before the full-scale invasion, LLC "NPC DESPROFMED" had 15 employees and served more than 200 regular customers per year. The company also worked on a spot basis, with one-time orders.
"We have such a job – there should be a regular, subscription based customer service," says the company director Liudmyla Kundelska. "At least once a month, you need to go to the site to destroy the population and completely get rid of the pest. Only then you can get a sustainable result. Yet, there are cases when even one visit of technicians is enough."
Full scale Russian invasion
In the early morning of February 24, 2022, the couple woke up to explosions in their house in Irpin. The war caught them by surprise. Gathering their strength and thoughts, Liudmyla and Yaroslav went to Kyiv to pick up work documentation, a laptop and small appliances from the office. At 5 am, the building where the office was located was closed, so Yaroslav had to climb through the window. In the evening of the same day, the couple headed to the west of the country.
"We managed to leave the region before the bridges were blown up. Russian helicopters flew over us. It was horrible," said Liudmyla.
Initially, the family stayed in Lviv. Having a medical education, Mr Yaroslav helped in the local hospital. Later they went to Ternopil. At that time, it was already known about the atrocities committed by the Russian occupiers in the Kyiv region.
"Roma lived next door to us in Irpin. We saw on TV that their entire family was killed by mortar shelling. And all the other people... They were not buried, the bodies lay right on the streets," recollects Liudmyla. "And it was already April, it was getting warm. We understood that we would have to work."
Then, at the local market in Ternopil, Yaroslav bought an aerosol cold fog generator — a special device for disinfection. Colleagues gave the man another old device. It was broken, so Yaroslav turned to the manufacturer, and they repaired the device free of charge.
"The warehouse of our enterprise with all the equipment and means of disinfection was located between the cities of Irpin and Gostomel. Just where the fighting was going on. At the end of March 2022, we already knew that the building with all the working accessories was completely destroyed," says Yaroslav. "At the lowest estimate, the firm suffered $20,000 in damage."
After the de-occupation of the Kyiv region, entrepreneurs turned to the head of the State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection in Kyiv city to organize the disinfection of the streets of Irpin and Bucha. Therefore, from April 9 to April 14, 2022, the company carried out anti-epidemic measures in places where the bodies of people killed by the Russian occupiers were removed. At the same time, the water in the dug wells was disinfected.
"We did everything on a volunteer basis. Not for the sake of any promotion, but because we have to live here, "said Yaroslav. "We knew how dangerous it was. And, of course, I wanted to help and contribute to the well-being of the community."
Once in Irpin, the man went to his house. He says that the family would not even have a house if the tanker fired a little to the right.
Looking for support
While the company’s work was forcibly suspended, entrepreneurs focused on the implementation of international standards. In May 2022, LLC "NPC DESPROFMED" became the first enterprise in Ukraine in its field to receive international certification.
Gradually, the company staff returned from the evacuation, and already in June 2022 the company resumed work. But since financial reserves were spent on new equipment and disinfectants, the enterprise needed support.
Liudmyla found out about the microgrant from the EU4Business programme on Instagram — she saw the information on the page of a Kyiv blogger. After a discussion with the team, they decided to apply.
"We did not have high hopes. We did not expect that anyone would ever help us. Because we are used to doing everything with our own hands and through our own efforts," says Liudmyla.
They learned about the victory in the grant programme from an email. They immediately shared the news with the team and everyone rejoiced.
With grant funds, the company purchased production equipment, which was lacking at the time: disinfection devices, four hot and cold fog generators, and disinfecting liquids. This made it possible to renew regular customer relations with their main clients, save jobs and start negotiations with new consumers.
Look only ahead
Currently, LLC "NPC DESPROFMED" is operating as usual in Kyiv. The order intake has stabilized and returned to pre-war levels. The company has managed to restore more than half of its property that was lost as a result of hostilities.
After participating in the grant programme, Liudmyla and Yaroslav became active participants in the Diia.Business project. They often visit the Bucha Entrepreneurship Support Center to participate in training events.
Spouses admit that most of all they dream that one day their industry will be regulated by law. Indeed, in the work of disinfectors, robust skills and competencies, safety and appropriate documentation are very important, yet, in our country, this field remains to be regulated. Therefore, as Ukraine is making its way towards European integration, they really hope that this sector will become strictly regulated and controlled, like in the EU.
One of their plans for the future is to rebuild their own warehouse. So far, the company has no dedicated space to store its working equipment. In addition, the ultimate mission remains unchanged: to provide quality services and meet customer needs at the highest level.
"People are very important to us. In the spring, I thought about going abroad, and then our employees started asking me when they could go to work. And then I realized that I needed to stay. I can’t leave people," said Liudmyla. "We are one team, and we need each other."
Microgrants are supported by the international cooperation programme “EU4Business: SME Competitiveness and Internationalisation” that is co-financed by the European Union and the German Government and is implemented by the German federal company “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH” in cooperation with The Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, The Ministry of Economy of Ukraine, the public service online portal "Diia", the national project for development of entrepreneurship and export Diia.Business, and the Ukrainian state institution the Entrepreneurship and Export Promotion Office. The microgrant initiative implementing partner is the International Charity Organization East Europe Foundation.
Photos: © LLC "NPC DESPROFMED", authors — O. Siomochtsin and Pylyp Gryshyn.