When the first Russian troops showed up in their backyard, the thought of shutting down operations, including in the United States, didn't cross the minds of those in control of Metinvest, Ukraine's largest steelmaker.
Instead, the multinational company, with operations in Ukraine, Europe, and several states in the U.S., quickly pivoted to keep the business running and workers employed.
"The thought that we can just stop operations and hang our keys up ... it actually never crossed our minds," said Metinvest Group CEO Yuriy Ryzhenkov. "We knew if we were able to operate and provide a certain level of safety to our employees, we should not stop."
In the U.S., where Metinvest owns Tennessee-based United Coal Company, all 960 employees have been kept busy producing coking and steam coal in Virginia and West Virginia.
Unable to use the coal produced by the U.S. mines at the shuttered steel mills, Ryzhenkov said the company found other interested buyers.
Currently, he said UCC is operating at a "healthy capacity" and operations remain profitable.
In the Ukraine, faced with enemy rockets and bombs "falling all over the place," Ryzhenkov said he was scared, especially in the early days of the Russian invasion.
Within the first few weeks of the war, production halted at two of the company's largest steel mills.
Azovstal, the massive steel plant located in Mariupol, was destroyed by artillery and bunker-buster bombs.
Operations at Ilyich Steel and Avdiivka Coke were also suspended after the Russians took over control of those areas.
As the war continues, it is business as usual — to an extent — elsewhere.
In places where it's safe to operate, Ukrainian workers are equipped with special protective equipment like bulletproof vests and military-style helmets.
Ryzhenkov said the desire to "not stop in the face of any difficulties" comes from shareholders of the company who have faced difficult decisions before.
He pointed out that Russia's 2014 offensive into southeastern Ukraine provided the company with its first taste of operating in a war-torn environment.
Losing access to traditional logistical routes, a few mills, and a coal mining subsidiary, Ryzhenkov said Metinvest learned how to redesign the company's logistics in a difficult working environment.
"All of that helped us to make the right decisions and to be flexible and able to get where we wanted to," he said.
So when talks about another invasion began to bubble up last year, Ryzhenkov said the company started to take steps to prepare by loading bomb shelters with several weeks of supplies and bracing for change.
When the invasion came, he said the company didn't have to think about how they were going to feed their employees and get them to safety because preparations were made, which freed up time for the company to think about making changes to keep operations afloat.
One of the biggest challenges the company has faced is logistics because Black Sea and Azov Sea ports have been blocked by the Russians. Sending steel and iron ore by rail is timely and costly.
Even though the company is operating below its pre-war capacity, it's growing in other ways.
At Kamet Steel, Metinvest's metallurgical asset in Kamianske, 10 new types of rolled products have been introduced, which are used in machine-building.
The company isn't just providing materials to the private sector. It has become one of the largest suppliers of special steel and protective ammunition in Ukraine.
"From day one, we started to produce certain military goods for our armed forces," Ryzhenkov said. "Quite a lot has been done in terms of helping the Ukrainian state and army."
As of Oct. 31, it has supplied 150,000 bulletproof vests to Ukrainian forces and provided 23,000 helmets to soldiers. It has supplied 268 vehicles, including 20 ambulances, and fuel to the army.
The company's metallurgists have developed protective structures for the military. Its steel has been used to manufacture 76,000 anti-tank hedgehogs, as well as other products needed on the front line.
If Metinvest had ceased operations on the first day of the war, Ryzhenkov said none of that would have ever been possible.
Currently, 7,000 employees of Metinvest serve in the armed forces of Ukraine.
For the employees who wanted to keep working, Ryzhenkov said the company helps with arrangements to keep their families out of harm's way.
While Metinvest has been able to keep its employees safe while they are on the clock, he said his company has suffered tragic losses.
He estimates that roughly 500 employees or family members of employees have been killed in the line of duty or as victims of what he calls terrorist attacks on residential buildings.
Just like the thought of shutting down never crossed the minds of the company's leaders in 2014, Ryzhenkov said it wasn't going to in 2022.
"By continuing to work, continuing to employ people, we are helping the country to win this war," he said.
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