Leaving Moscow

Jun 06 | 2024

Steve Jordan interviews Dennis van Diemen, who spent 19 years running Voerman in Moscow, about his company’s painful decision to leave the city in which it blazed a trail for so many years.

Dennis van DiemenDennis van Diemen currently works out of Prague for Voerman where he is responsible for all the company’s Central and Eastern European business.  It’s a job for which he is eminently qualified after 19 years running Voerman in Moscow.  Now that the company has stepped away from any involvement with Russia, I was keen to talk to Dennis to find out more about the decision to leave after so long, and the mechanics of doing so.

He explained that leaving was emotionally difficult. “We left with pain in our hearts,” he said.  “Moscow was Robert’s baby.”  He means, of course, Robert Voerman who started the Moscow operation in 1991, immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  As such, Voerman was the first European moving company in the country.  I visited in around 2010 and was impressed with the quality of the facilities and the dedication of the people.  It was impressive then but, by the time Voerman moved away, it had a large fleet of vehicles, 10,000m2 of Class A warehouse and around 40 staff.

Dennis explained that after the war started in Ukraine, people began to move away in three waves. Right from the start some companies left, not wishing to stay a moment longer.  More left after a few months as it became clear that the situation was not improving and the war was not going to be over quickly. Finally, the bigger companies made the momentous decision to leave as well. “A big company cannot close their business and move out overnight,” he said.

Moving people out of Russia has been difficult.  For example, no European trucks have been allowed in, so consignments had to move to the border on a Russian vehicle then be transhipped to a European vehicle at the border. Dennis explained that it was an involved and extensive operation, but the customers were very grateful.  “People were just pleased that we could get their stuff out for them.  Very often the owners had already left so we had to make arrangements with landlords and cleaning ladies to get access.”

Voerman made the decision to leave Moscow last summer, but it took some time to put the plans into action ...

Photo: Dennis van Diemen.

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