How a little DC bakery hopes to be a big help in Ukraine

D Light Cafe in Adams Morgan is raising funds to help people in Ukraine. (WTOP/John Domen)

Vira Derun and her sister Anistasiia are hustling all over the bakery they own in Adams Morgan. Even with the sweet treats nearly sold out, the tables at D Light Cafe were full, and customers kept coming in just before lunch on Tuesday for coffee and anything else.

Sometimes, they parted with money without buying anything at all.

And yet, Vira said this is the worst week of her life.

“These five days, I never imagined that I would experience something like that — never,” she told WTOP.

That’s because while she and her sister are here physically, their hearts and their minds are at home in Ukraine with the rest of their family that’s still there. Their homes are on the outskirts of the besieged capital of Kyiv.

“To be honest, I’m tired of crying. I’m exhausted, as well as my sister,” said Vira.

To compound their pain, the sisters had just reopened the bakery less than two weeks ago after it was set on fire in late January. The bakery had only been open for several months.

A man reportedly known to merchants in the area was arrested and charged with arson for the incident. Meanwhile, a Gofundme page raised more than $13,000 to help the sisters reopen their business.

But when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, keeping the bakery open was the last thing Vira wanted to do. Her entire focus was on what was happening at home. But on the second day, she had a realization.

“I understood work could be the answer to the war. We could send money, we could send help, we could do the fundraiser,” she said. “So the second day was much easier to me.”

At the counter by the register is a little donation jar that customers have been stuffing with cash. Those who don’t carry cash can also donate electronically by scanning a QR code and using Apple Pay. Proceeds from everything they make this week is also going to help with the resistance.

“Everything is going directly to the Ukrainian side,” Vira said. “And if you just want to come here and say hi and hug us, that’s also acceptable. Thank you so much, guys.

“The help from the people, that’s amazing,” she added.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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