While the war in Ukraine continues, the focus in the UK media has been on military advances or threats of nuclear escalation. However, ordinary civilians have had to continue living their lives, and Ukrainian society carries on.
I was happy to get a call from old friend and bike collector Artem Gladiky who, being of Ukrainian descent, reached out to two makers within the cycling community, 7R bags and Lazarus, both based in north-west Ukraine. To try and help support small Ukrainian businesses, Artem helped connect them to us and we were more than happy to offer them space at this year’s show. Both Lazarus and 7R bags will be sharing one of our staged booths in the track-centre.
We wanted to know more about their experience living through war, and what it feels like to continue to make things during this difficult period. We sent them over a couple of questions, for which we’re really grateful they found the time to respond to with their thoughtful answers.
Could you introduce yourselves and what you do?
Lazarus – LAZARUS started in 2018 in Kyiv. Our team was founded by two friends Denys and Mykyta, both engineers and cyclists. Recently we have expanded with the addition of Anton, another engineer-cyclist. Lazarus is our hobby now, but we are trying to gently transform it into our main business. Our desire is to grow LAZARUS by ourselves, without any help or investments, because we think it’s the only way to make LAZARUS pure and original. LAZARUS is our life and satisfaction.
7R – I think we started making bags in 2013. For our own needs at the very beginning, but also for our friends and families. We were real fans of bike touring, and we didn’t really like bags available on the Ukrainian market those days. In 2016 we moved from Kyiv to Kovel. We actually weren’t 100% sure that it was a good idea to leave our jobs and try something new, but everything turned out pretty good after all. In 2016 we did a three month tour in Europe. And it was pretty rainy most of times, so that’s how we made a decision to pay special attention for waterproofness of 7R bags. Also we understood that road touring isn’t really our thing – this is fun, of course, but we are more into discovering Nature and the backcountry. And we prefer to do this as far from main roads, as it’s only possible in the 21st century. That’s how we formed 7Roads bags style and purpose – Ride your bike where even wolves are scared to shit, and our bags will help you survive there!
How are you now? How is it living through war in Ukraine?
Lazarus – We still live and work in Kyiv, thanks to our army, we are able to do that.
7R – Everything was fine, and we had our plans for travels and for growing our business. But on February 24, a crazy dictator with his zombies invaded Ukraine. And since that day everything has changed. I can’t describe our feelings, I guess. But I hope you never feel the same. Stan’s mom lived just near Bucha… And Elena’s mom is still in Kharkiv. Luckily for us we live in the North West of Ukraine, and we did not see Russian marauders here. But we have Belorus just 50 km from us, and who really knows what will happen tomorrow. Right after the invasion Elena started to make camouflage nets, and Stan was involved in patrolling our town, helping local police forces. We are bordertown, so we had some issues here with saboteurs and some other assholes.
What is the state of the economy and how has it affected your ability to make things? How intact is the manufacturing ecosystem? I’m amazed (and glad) that factories and machinery can still be used to make bike components!
Lazarus – It’s a little harder to spend a lot of time on bicycle components manufacturing because everyone in LAZARUS has their first job as an engineer in companies which are very important at war time. But we are doing our best to optimise all our processes. In my opinion, this situation has forced us to work smarter and more efficiently.
7R – 7Roads is an export oriented company, and this helps us survive, because as you can imagine, Ukrainians have some other preferences now. A lot of people lost their jobs, and a lot of people lost their homes and all property. So Ukrainian economics is doing pretty badly. But you probably noticed that Ukrainians are pretty good fighters, and we are the same in business) All business that is only possible is trying to keep going. So we can buy almost everything that we need for manufacturing our bags here, in Ukraine. Now our team is four people – two of us, then Tatiana is our seamstress and Andriy is a real “do it all” man.
Also we collaborate with Serhiy, who makes a front rack and some other metal parts for us. And we collaborate with LitewayEquipment. This is a Ukrainian outdoor gear manufacturer. We make ultralight DCF wallets for them. Today is not about making money for growing business, today is about surviving, helping people around us and Ukraine.
We got a lot of help from our customers abroad. Some people just donated money, and some people made orders to keep us in business and help us survive. I can’t say how much we appreciate this! It was super helpful. We sent all this money for the needs of the guys on the front lines. And we keep donating all the time, because the guys there need drones, cars, special medicine and so on. Also I want to mention that we are super grateful to our Ukrainian post. The main storages were ruined in the first days of war, but they managed somehow to move everything to Lviv and keep working from there. So there was only 2 weeks when we weren’t able to ship parcels, which is really impressive!
Are you able to get out on your bike still? Where are the best places to cycle in Ukraine?
7R – We don’t ride a lot this year. We aren’t really in a good mood for this, and it doesn’t seems safety for us to leave far from home town. Especially because we are in 50km from Belarus. Luckily for us we have a lot of available areas for cycling. Only lands close to the border are mined and forbidden for civilians. We spent time outdoor with friends. It feels really good to share a moments of peace. Just being outside, listening birds singing, watching water flows. So we did a bike-to-picnic rides, and one day rides around town. And twice we were an overnight trip.
Lazarus – The cycling community in Ukraine is large and friendly, from the start we felt great support from Ukrainian riders, but we want to spread LAZARUS’ components everywhere, that’s why we are selling worldwide.
Are there any lessons that living through war has taught you?
7R – The most important thing that we understood during the war is that we have to learn how to live each moment of our life. Enjoy simple things. And we understood the value of real friendship. Everyone here does, I guess. I probably can’t describe it well and in the needed words, but when real shit started to happen around you, and you got help – this is really priceless. And the same works in opposite directions – I mean, when you have your own problems, but still find time and resources to give a hand to someone nearby, it’s also a great feeling.
How do you see this war ending?
No one can give 100% guarantees when war will be over, and how exactly it will be over. Statistics and history says that there should be some negotiation between Ukrainian and Russian politicians. But for now, my only desire is for Russia to stop existing and the people on those territories to be thrown back to the Stone Age for all they have done to Ukraine and for our people.
What is the best way for people reading this to help ordinary people in Ukraine ?
7R – We believe in our military forces, and try to help them with our donations. Are you asking how to help ordinary people? My answer is donate directly to the guys on the front line. The end of war depends on how effectively they kill russian invaders.
Many thanks to Elena and Stanislav from 7Roads bags, and Denys and Mykyta from Lazarus. Be sure to check out their stand at this year’s show !