The Ukrainian devs who are making games in a bomb shelter: “It’s our duty”

Lauren Bergin
nordcurrent devs tatyana margolina CEO victoria Trofimova against Ukrainian flag background
Nordcurrent, Dexerto

As bombs fall from the smog-ridden skies of Ukraine, the lives of everyday civilians have been altered beyond repair. For Nordcurrent’s CEO, Victoria Trofimova, and Dnipro Office Director, Tatyana Margolina, game development has to go on despite the challenges the country faces. Here are their stories.

On February 24, 2022, Russia initiated an unsanctioned invasion of neighboring Ukraine, fanning flames of tensions that have existed between the two nations.

Trapped at the heart of a nation under siege, the lives of everyday citizens have been altered beyond recognition. While the once-bustling streets of the capital city, Kyiv, were a vibrant hubbub of business professionals and leisure facilities, they now lie amid the fog of war, forever tainted by the scourge of conflict.

Attempting to retain a sense of normality amid mass evacuations and constant fighting is Nordcurrent‘s Tatyana Margolina, the Office Director for the company’s Dnipro facility. As sirens blare and the eyes of the world continue to scrutinize the invasion, Tatyana is working alongside CEO, Victoria Trofimova, to show that, while industry may have ground to a halt, Nordcurrent stop for no one.

nordcurrent mobile game cooking fever
Based out of Lithuania, Nordcurrent are best known for their mobile titles.

A city in flames

With offices in Dnipro and Odessa, Nordcurrent is a developer with a focus on mobile games. Known for titles like Cooking Fever and Sniper Arena, Tatyana heads up the company’s Dnipro facility.

Despite a vague awareness that something wicked lurked on the horizon, Tatyana recalls waking up in slight disbelief. “On the morning of the 24th I went outside to the fire escape to have a cigarette,” she recalls. “There was smoke rising from my home city, it looked like a movie.”

As it became clear life as they knew it had been turned upside down, Victoria (currently stationed at Nordcurrent’s head office in Lithuania) was quick to act when the news reached her. “I learned that the war had started about two hours after Tatyana,” she recalls. “I was woken up by my father who told me to turn on the TV.”

While she was quick to get to the office, she notes that her first steps remain somewhat unclear. “That day is very blurry for me; as well as the entire first month following the invasion. We contacted Tatyana, as well as the manager of our other studio in Odessa to find out what the situation was on the ground. Both cities were bombed on the first day.

“We started to figure out what we had to do, and what we could do; how could we help our employees? How will the studios be affected?” As the conflict continued to rage over the weekend, Victoria notes “we arranged the first bus going out of Odessa, and we’ve continued to organize buses for people who want to leave. It’s all very individual, but our Dnipro studio remains open with essentially little interruption.”

nordcurrent dnipro office manager tatyana margolina
Tatyana manages Nordcurrent’s Dnipro office.

Game development from a bomb shelter

With Dnipro thankfully has been spared much of the violence, Tatyana’s office is equipped with an underground bomb shelter where the employees have been spending a little more time than they would like.

She states “employees are mostly in the office right now. The nearest frontline to Dnipro is around an hour and a half away by car. We don’t need to go to the basement that often these days – there have only been around 33 bomb hits in the suburbs.”

“Only 33” – words Tatyana likely never would have believed she’d been saying so casually.

As she spoke to me, however, she confesses “there are sirens on right now, so right now I should be in the shelter, but we don’t really go there unless we actually hear bombs dropping.”

While all of this has simply become a fact of life for her, it’s shocking to hear another human speak so freely of being in constant danger. Even miles away in Scotland, a feeling of hopelessness and terror started to well up inside me, so how do Tatyana and her employees cope with that sense of discomfort every day?

“We support each other, we have a friendly team, and we are united in our work because it is our duty as citizens. This is one of the few things we can do and that we can affect. Bombs don’t fall all the time in Dnipro, so we tell each other not to be down and share jokes – and we sincerely laugh at those jokes.”

While Victoria notes that the company’s games “continue to perform well” despite “issues with upgrading and issuing updates for the games.” She highlights that “the business has been affected more on a personal level. Our employees are under an enormous amount of stress, people have had to relocate – we opened a new office in Warsaw, Poland, for the relocated staff – so it’s more those kind of things, and of course, uncertainty.

“It’s not a business kind of issue; it’s a personal tragedy.”

lithuanian developer nordcurrent CEO Victoria Trofimova
Victoria has been relentless in her efforts to ensure employee safety.

Hope in the hour of despair

Despite our conversation being about one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent history, there’s an inspiring poise about both women. When I asked what the future looked like for them, their answers left me speechless, but also full of hope.

“I think we all have to be optimistic,” says Victoria. “I’m an optimistic person. I believe that, especially in business, it’s an essential, but also as a citizen and as a human being I need to believe things will return to normal; otherwise how can we proceed?

“We certainly believe and hope that this insanity of war will end soon and we will all go back to normality. I certainly look forward to, one day, being able to fly back to our offices in Ukraine and visit our staff. That is something I definitely want to do in the near future.”

“We believe in victory,” echoes Tatyana. “We believe in the Ukrainian army, the economy, and the people around us. People have lost an understanding of their future, they have lost their dreams, but we stay here in Ukraine and help because it is our country

“I want to express my gratitude for all of the help the world has given Ukraine, and I ask for continued aid to help us win this war.”

If you wish to aid the Ukranian war effort, you can donate to the following charities:

Red Cross | UNICEF | Save the Children