Amid the onset of the Russian invasion, we received an email from Ukraine. The sender was the co-owner of the Whidegroup, an ecommerce agency in Zaporizhzhia, near Crimea. Politely, Anastasia Zhuk asked if we would renew her company’s directory listing.
She didn’t mention the war and its upheaval on her business, family, and life — only the request, followed by a thank you.
Thus began my dialog with her, leading to this interview. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.
Kerry Murdock: Tell us about the Whidegroup.
Anastasia Zhuk: Whidegroup is a boutique ecommerce development agency. We work with small-to-medium-sized ecommerce businesses worldwide. We focus on Shopify and Magento, although we’re experienced on many platforms.
We do design, development, and integrations of ecommerce sites with ERPs, CRMs, logistic solutions, and so on. We also work with service providers — shipping, payments, others — and help them develop extensions and applications to integrate with the most popular ecommerce platforms.
My husband Anton and I founded the Whidegroup in 2014. The company is located in the industrial city of Zaporizhzhia. My husband already had experience working in the ecommerce industry, managing projects and consulting with ecommerce merchants. We have about 20 employees, all in Ukraine.
Murdock: Zaporizhzhia is in southeastern Ukraine near heavy fighting.
Zhuk: Yes, that’s correct.
Murdock: Tell us about the war’s impact on you, your family, and the Whidegroup.
Zhuk: It’s definitely not the easiest of times for us. Some of our employees tried to leave Zaporizhzhia for safer places. Anton and I are in Western Ukraine, as is our 5-year-old son. We didn’t leave the city because of the war. We were on vacation on February 24, when the Russians invaded. We’ve been unable to return.
I will never forget that morning. My husband woke me up and said, “The war has started.”
It is history that we are seeing with our eyes. Our children see, too. It’s a tragic situation. We’re praying and hoping that the war won’t last years.
Two of our employees are outside Ukraine now. They went with their children to Poland and Serbia. A few are here in Western Ukraine. The others remain in Zaporizhzhia.
Our government has enlisted people to patrol and protect the city militarily. So, some of our guys complete their daily tasks for us and then fight in the war afterward. I don’t know how they do it. Maybe they don’t sleep. I’m not sure.
But I’m very grateful and happy to report that we can still meet all expectations of our clients.
Murdock: Where is Anton?
Zhuk: Anton is not with me. He left us yesterday and went to Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine. He joined a volunteer organization that receives humanitarian aid from Europe — medicine, hospital supplies, equipment — and distributes it to those in need.
Murdock: Let’s talk more about the Whidegroup. You mentioned expertise with Magento and Shopify.
Zhuk: We started as Magento developers. That was Anton’s expertise. He had his own ecommerce store on Magento. He was also a developer, designer, and marketer.
We do all types of integrations, extensions, speed optimization, and consulting. We do migrations from Magento 1 to Magento 2.
Murdock: You can do it.
Zhuk: We can do it. Our Shopify expertise was important during Covid as many merchants had to move quickly from offline to online. We were able to help them.
Despite the war, we’re open for business, ready to serve ecommerce companies.
Murdock: How can folks reach out to you and the Whidegroup?
We will be very quick with consultations, advice, and whatever assistance they need.
Murdock: Anything else?
Zhuk: I hope everyone learns more about Ukraine and our history. We have always been a nation that loves freedom, that doesn’t invade other countries. We only want to live our life. Do not watch Russian TV or read Russian media. It’s a fairytale they tell about the war.
We don’t need anyone on our land. We want only to have our country.