When we started Hello Chocolate in 2015, one of our founding principles was that this business is not supposed to be about us. It’s about chocolate. We have no interest in building a cult of personality or farming social media likes and followers. We believe that our role is behind the scenes as stewards and curators—our job is to support talented independent chocolate makers and to introduce them to a larger family of chocolate lovers around the globe. In this way, it seemed irrelevant who we are or where we’re from.
Our perspective on this has evolved since we were forced to flee Kyiv, Ukraine last week. Our family has witnessed Russia’s invasion first-hand. Sadly, our daughter (along with millions of our country’s children) has been through things that no child should ever have to experience.
Shortly after the first artillery shells were fired, though, many of you reached out with heartwarming generosity and concern for our family. You made it clear that, though Hello Chocolate may be what brought us together, you care about us as people. Just as we were seeing the worst of humankind, your messages of kindness have been renewing our faith in humanity. We will be forever grateful for this outpouring of love and hope.
I’m happy to provide a brief update that Nina and our daughter Varya, together with Nina’s mother, left Ukraine early last Saturday. After a bit of a journey, they are now staying with our dear friends at Beau Cacao. It was a difficult decision to part, but in the end, we agreed that there are worse fates than being a refugee at your favorite chocolate shop in the French Alps.
I am currently in Odessa where I have been splitting my time helping our local defensive units prepare and working with Hello Chocolate’s operational teams in Singapore and the US. I had been away from Ukraine for enough years that I had forgotten how epically stoic our citizens can be. I am now immersed in this daily and, while I aspire to it, I am also reminded that “Just because they carry it well doesn't mean it isn't heavy.”
As for Hello Chocolate, our operations teams have been doing a fantastic job keeping the machine running. While so many in Ukraine have had to leave their jobs and livelihoods behind, we feel incredibly fortunate for our own situation. Starting yesterday, we have committed to providing a quarter of our future proceeds, to the support of other displaced Ukrainian families, mostly through the continuity of the food supply chain here in Odessa. Because this is what we know and what we’re passionate about. I personally work directly with the professional veterans of the volunteer movement here in Ukraine. This guarantees that all help will reach their recipients as fast as it can only be possible.
While I think some of our most difficult days are ahead of us, I also believe we will see peace soon. I know the odds. I’m reminded of them everyday. But I have to believe this will end, just as I have to believe I will see my family again. In the meantime, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your continued kind words, thoughts, and deeds. Slava Ukraini!
Dima Minkov, Hello Chocolate.