Chocolate and charity: how one Ukrainian woman helps deaf and blind communities

FormulaOfAction, Ukraine

Business with a dash of charity. After the start of the war in the Donbas, Olena Polozok quit her job at a bank, and started her own business, a sweet shop called “Dobra Kondyterska”, which translates into English as “The Good Confectionary”. Along with her team, which is deaf, Olena cooks various treats and gives a portion of the sales to charity.

Cupcakes, marshmallow, and chocolate. For Olena Polozok, making these sweet delicacies is much more than just a hobby or business — it’s a way she can help those who are often marginalized by society.

Before opening her very own Sweet Shop, Olena worked in a bank. When the war in Eastern Ukraine started, Olena decided to leave work and volunteer. That’s where she met deaf people for the first time. Olena long struggled with the communication barrier, but now feels that there are no barriers, and would like to share this feeling with others:

“When we found out how many talented, interesting people there are among the deaf — we could not stop. I called on all my friends to help, and that’s how I found my team.”

Olena’s sweet shop team includes two deaf people. She was introduced to them two years ago, at a festival for people with hearing problems. Oleksii is an artist and architect, and his wife is a seamstress, but they both gladly accepted Olena’s offer to join her in the Sweets business:

“I love to make cakes, and pies, and various sweets. I cook after work usually — and sometimes at night. If I come home late and there’s a big order, I try to help out as much as I can.”

Everyone has their own responsibilities. Olena makes the sweets, while Oleksii and his wife deal with the baking. The small kitchen makes it hard to keep up with all the orders, but the team is dreaming of expanding.

“We want to open a whole space where we will not only make sweets but also teach deaf people the art of confectionery,” says Polozok.

According to her, the sweet shop doesn’t just help the deaf, but the blind community as well.

“This is our charity candy. With the sale of each of them, we send a portion of the money to buy a printer that prints in Braille, for blind people who do not have books. There is only one of these printers so far in the whole of Ukraine.”

Olena has also opened the Free School for the Study of Sign Language. The school sees 10–30 students for each of their 3-month training courses.

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