On May 23, Russian missiles targeted the Factor Druk printing plant, one of the largest such plants in Europe and a crucial printer for the Ukrainian publishing industry. The attack killed seven employees at the plant and rendered one shop of the factory inoperable, with heavy damage throughout the building, forcing the plant to suspend operations. The fallout from the attack, some six weeks later, includes a delay in shipping books and an unexpected rise in prices in Ukraine.

Factor Druk's losses, including destroyed and damaged equipment, are estimated to exceed $8.5 million USD, with approximately 100,000 books also destroyed. Tetiana Hryniuk, CEO of Factor Druk, told Ukrainian publishing news service Chytomo that the company is seeking help from foreign donors and searching for used equipment while placing orders with equipment manufacturers. She estimated that even at an expedited pace, it may take as many as six months to restore full operations.

That the printer has continued to operate throughout the war may come as a surprise. Russian attacks on Kharkiv, the printing center of Ukraine and home to many publishing houses, in the early months of the war saw damage to the House of Printing and the logistics center of the Ranok publishing house. Printers, including Unisoft and Hurov and Co., were also targeted and damaged. In all, Russian attacks have damaged the offices and warehouses of some 20 Ukrainian publishing houses.

The challenge posed by any slowdown at Factor Druk to the Ukrainian publishing industry cannot be overstated: it produced approximately 10 million books annually—a third of all books printed in Ukraine—and was a primary supplier for several leading Ukrainian publishing houses. The educational sector has been especially impacted, as the printer was responsible for producing 40% of the country’s school textbooks.

Oleksandr Popovych, director of Unisoft, described the impact of the attack "significant and very personal" for his team. "We're all grieving because many Factor Druk employees had family ties to our factory workers," Popvych said.

The human toll of the attack is particularly devastating for an industry already facing shortages of skilled professionals. "The loss of human life is the most devastating aspect of this tragedy,” Viktor Kruglov, director of Ranok publishing house, said. “While equipment can be replaced, the people who lost their lives in the strike are irreplaceable."

Kruglov predicted that ongoing Russian attacks will only contribute to further production delays. Ranok lost some $200,000 worth of inventory in the attack; Vivat, a publishing house owned by the same conglomerate as Factor Druk, lost some 83,000 printed books.

Help for the Ukrainian publishing industry has been coming from all corners of the globe, particularly the United States, where the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to allocate funds for printing textbooks. Billionaire Howard G. Buffett, a vocal supporter of Ukraine, announced plans to donate to the factory’s recovery, while the George Soros–backed International Renaissance Foundation supported the factory with a grant following the attack.

The Ukrainian publishing industry has been on frontlines of both the physical and cultural war with Russia. Russia has spent decades working to undermine the use of the Ukrainian language and the publishing industry that supported it. Accordingly, the government of Ukraine has also gone to lengths to ensure that it remains intact throughout the war and has recently passed several measures to support it.

Among the efforts are a law, passed last month, that offers rent subsidies for bookstores and issues book certificates to 18-year-olds. Book certificates, which are valued at 908 Ukrainian hryvnia ($22.50), can be used top purchase books in a manner similar to other culture voucher programs in France, Germany, and Spain. “We will not only support the publishing industry, but also popularize Ukrainian books," said MP Yevhenia Kravchuk, one of the legislators responsible for the law.