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Interview with Stella Stankevych, Director General of the Open Joint-Stock Trembita Company
Trembita is a wind instrument from the Carpathians. In the times of old, when an urgent message was to be sent far and wide over the mountains, trembita players climbed high to the top of the nearest mountain, and standing there they played the tunes well known in the Carpathian villages. Each tune had a significance of its own, and the message, carried over long distances, was immediately understood, be it a warning of danger or cause for rejoicing.
“Trembita” also happens to be the name of a garments-sewing factory in the town of Chernivtsi, situated in Western Ukraine. It survived the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and did not take long to become a leader in its line of business. The factory exports the clothes it makes to Western Europe and the USA, and supplies the internal Ukrainian markets with excellent clothes as well.
Ms Stella Stankevych, 60, Director General of the Open Joint-Stock Trembita Company, was recently interviewed by the Welcome to Ukraine magazine.
Ms Stankevych, it was not accidental that you went to work at the Trembita Factory, was it?
No, it was not. I always liked sewing and as a child I made dresses for my dolls, and for the dolls of all my neighbours. Later, I made an evening dress for myself to appear at my school-graduation ball. It was back in 1960 that I went to work at the Trembita Factory. At first I was just a sewer, then, after I had studied part time and graduated from a Kyiv consumer-industry college, I gradually rose through the ranks — I was promoted to a shop supervisor, then to an engineer, then to the chief engineer, and in 1984, I was made the director general. I don’t think it’s quite proper to speak about oneself and assess what kind of a boss one is, but I think I have a right to say that I belong to the category of demanding but evenhanded bosses.
There are not many female heads of big companies in the country yet. Being a woman — is it an asset or a liability in your line of work?
Neither. I do not think gender should have anything to do with the work you do. You have to be a professional, that’s all.
The Trembita Factory was founded almost sixty years ago. Was the transition from the Soviet style of work to the market-economy principles a difficult one?
Yes, it was. You see, in 1991, when Ukraine became independent and the Soviet-type of economy was abandoned in favour of market economy, we had to radically change in order to stay afloat. So many factories and companies went bankrupt and sank. We survived, though we were hit very hard by the sudden rupture of our supply lines. We had to look for new suppliers of materials and equipment, we had to look for new ways of selling our products, we had to find new markets for our goods. And we had to do all alone, without practically any help from the state. In the first years of independence, Ukraine had to solve so many problems that the government could hardly help us with anything.
But we are called “Trembita,” and trembita is a musical instrument which is made from the wood of smerekas, Carpathian coniferous evergreens. Not any smereka is good for making trembitas — only those are chosen which have been struck by lightning. The more the tree is damaged by the lightning, the louder the trembita made of its wood sounds. There is a definite analogy with our company. We rose, as it were, from the ashes, and became a leader, and the garments we make are sold in several countries of the world, even across the ocean. But, of course, we lived through some very tough times. In 1991 we were just barely alive, and in 1993, we became a joint-stock company with good prospects. We learned how to do things in a completely new way, how to be competitive, how to bring in investments, how to introduce new technologies. As early as in 1992, we started cooperation with an Italian company, Confitalia, the next was a German company, and so on. By now, ninety percent of our products are made for foreign companies.
Which garments does your company specialize in?
Mostly, we produce men’s suits, jackets, vests, trousers and all sorts of light overcoats. We make about 65 thousand garments for our western partners each month.
I’m sure your prices are affordable for your customers in the west. But what about Ukrainians?
I’m proud and happy to say that we make garments for people of different incomes, from low to high. Among our customers are the president of Ukraine, many high-ranking politicians, businesspeople, and so many people in the lower-income brackets.
Obviously, you make a special effort to keep abreast of the latest trends in fashion.
Not only that. We have to be at the cutting edge of modern technologies to stay competitive. We have a number of fashion designers, engineers and experts working for us. They make sure we follow the latest fashion and technological developments.
Do you use the Ukrainian or foreign-made fabrics and accessories?
Mostly Ukrainian. And only very good quality, but we also buy foreign-made fabrics and accessories.
How many people work at the factory?
We have 2,000 people working right here, at the company. Plus about a thousand people work for us in related companies in other places. Our workers and employees earn good salaries and wages, among the highest in our town. Their average age is slightly over thirty. There are quite a few young people of top qualification working for us, with very good education. In fact, it’s considered prestigious to be working for our company.
Do you run a network of stores in Ukraine?
Yes, we do. We run eighteen stores in Kyiv, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kremenchuk, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, and naturally, Chernivtsi. We are going to open our stores in Chernihiv and Cherkasy quite soon.
Are there any other companies like Trembita in Ukraine?
Yes, there are, but unfortunately very few. There are many reasons for that — the inadequate legal foundation, the ineffective bureaucratic machinery, the lack of well-coordinated government economic policies. I have an impression that decisions are taken not by those who understand well the working of economics but by politicos and populists whose motives are mostly self-serving.
Do you wear garments made by your company?
Yes, sure I do. I have all kinds of garments in my wardrobe, for all sorts of occasions, but I give preference to things made by Trembita.
What about your family?
The same. Incidentally, my daughter works for Trembita — she is a sales manager. My grandson also works for Trembita. My son does not — he is a medical doctor. I feel myself a happy person. I was born in the land of Bukovyna, I’ve achieved much more than I thought I would when as a young girl I came to work at the Trembita Factory.
You are definitely an achiever.
I think you can say that. But I want success to come to all the people of Ukraine. I want them to be proud of their country, I want them to live happily in a prosperous, flourishing state. I want them always to have good work, to earn good money, to be able to realize their ambitions. They deserve it.
Open Joint-Stock Trembita Company:
3 Komarova St., Chernivtsi, 58018, Ukraine
Tel.: 380 (3722) 42-204
Fax: 380 (372) 546-057