At the start of the Russian invasion, we received an email from Ukraine. The sender was the co-owner of Widegroup, an e-commerce 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, her family and her life – only the request, followed by a thank you.
Thus began my dialogue with her, culminating in this interview. Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.
Kerry Murdock: Tell us about the white group.
Anastasia Jouk: Widegroup is an online store development agency. We work with small and medium e-commerce businesses around the world. We focus on Shopify and Magento, although we are experienced on many platforms.
We design, develop and integrate e-commerce sites with ERPs, CRMs, logistics solutions, etc. We also work with service providers – shipping, payments, others – and help them develop extensions and apps to integrate with the most popular e-commerce platforms.
My husband Anton and I founded the Widegroup group in 2014. The company is located in the industrial city of Zaporizhzhia. My husband already had experience working in the e-commerce industry, managing projects and consulting with e-commerce merchants. We have about 20 employees, all in Ukraine.
Murdock: Zaporizhzhia is in southeastern Ukraine, close to heavy fighting.
Jouk: Yes that is correct.
Murdock: Tell us about the impact of the war on you, your family and the white group.
Jouk: It’s certainly not the easiest time 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 town because of the war. We were on vacation on February 24 when the Russians invaded. We couldn’t come back.
I will never forget this morning. My husband woke me up and said, “The war has started.
This is the story we see with our eyes. Our children also see. It is a tragic situation. We pray and hope that the war will not last for years.
Two of our employees are currently outside Ukraine. They went with their children to Poland and Serbia. A few are here in Western Ukraine. The others stay in Zaporizhzhia.
Our government has enlisted people to patrol and militarily protect the city. So some of our guys do their daily chores for us and then fight in the war. I don’t know how they do it. Maybe they’re not sleeping. I am not sure.
But I am very grateful and happy to report that we can still meet all of our customers’ expectations.
Murdock: Where is Antonio?
Jouk: Anton is not with me. He left us yesterday and went to Lviv, a city in western Ukraine. He joined a voluntary 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 white group. You mentioned expertise with Magento and Shopify.
Jouk: We started as Magento developers. It was Anton’s expertise. He had his own online store on Magento. He was also a developer, designer and distributor.
We do all types of integrations, extensions, speed optimization and consulting. We are performing migrations from Magento 1 to Magento 2.
Murdock: You can do it.
Jouk: We can do it. Our Shopify expertise was important during Covid as many merchants had to quickly transition from offline to online. We were able to help them.
Despite the war, we are open for business, ready to serve e-commerce companies.
Murdock: How can people contact you and the white group?
Jouk: They can contact us via the contact form on our website or by e-mail.
We will be very prompt with consultations, advice and all the assistance they need.
Murdock: Nothing else?
Jouk: I hope everyone will learn more about Ukraine and our history. We have always been a nation that loves freedom, that does not invade other countries. We only want to live our life. Don’t watch Russian TV or read Russian media. It’s a fairy tale they tell about war.
We don’t need anyone on our land. We only want to have our country.