D Light Cafe & Bakery is an immigrant-owned spot for authentic Ukrainian food in Adams Morgan. Owners Vira and Anastasiia Derun work together to bring the heart of Ukraine to the D.C. community by incorporating traditional recipes into the menu.
Vira immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine when she was 19 years old and graduated from American University’s Kogod School of Business in 2021. Her older sister, Anastasiia, moved to the U.S. before her, hoping to kickstart a professional career.
“She was dreaming about the restaurant and I was dreaming about business, so we basically cooperated together,” Vira said.
The two sisters opened D Light, the first Ukrainian bakery in D.C. in October 2021.
For the sisters, opening a bakery was an exciting but stressful experience. Starting a business on their own was a challenge because they started D Light from scratch and struggled with furnishing their bakery.
“The construction was the most stressful because we personally had to do something ourselves,” Vira said.
Their commitment to D Light paid off, as the cafe is popular on social media for its aesthetic. On TikTok and Instagram, people often share videos of the welcoming arch of flowers surrounding the entrance and post pictures enjoying an iced matcha latte.
Just a year later, the Russia-Ukraine War began. D Light experienced an overwhelming increase in support.
The bakery was so busy that the line to order went out the door and down the sidewalk, Vira said. The workdays were long, but the turnout made the dedication worth it.
“It was a really hard time,” Vira said. “But we were doing this for our guys in Ukraine.”
All of the money collected from fundraisers and sales went directly to military aid. Vira and Anastasiia bought items such as helmets, tactical vests and first aid kits in an effort to save lives.
“We feel very fulfilled with the idea that we are somehow helping somebody who fights for our country,” Vira said.
Food is still a focus at D Light. The menu consists of traditional dishes and pastries, such as the “Delightful Breakfast.” This includes a beetroot salad using the Deruns’ mom’s recipe and a popular Ukrainian butter with herbs.
“People love the food,” Vira said. “They come and donate and get something in return.”
D Light’s wide selection of matcha lattes is also a hit. Aside from the regular green matcha, they have orange, blue and strawberry that can be ordered iced or hot.
Vira and Anastasiia continue to support Ukraine and encourage people of the community to come visit their cafe.
“Sometimes I think that we’re not doing enough, but getting support and not just sending money, but sending things that regular people need, like helmets, is enough,” Vira said.
This article was edited by Sara Winick, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Luna Jinks.