In the words of Olena Gorin: "I can cry, wipe my tears and continue working. When my husband comes back from Russian captivity, I want him to see that I have not lost my spirit."


"My name is Olena, I am from Mariupol. Now I live in Novoyavorivsk, Lviv region, with my two kids, waiting for my husband to come home from captivity..." this is how we met Olena Gorin.

Olena Gorin is a fire service inspector by education and a pastry chef by vocation. Olena's husband is a military officer and defender of Mariupol, and has been in Russian captivity for more than 1.5 years. 

Olena Gorin. Photo: courtesy of UN Women / Sofia Kunets.
Олена Горін. Фото: надане ООН Жінки / Софія Кунець.

Olena was always looking for something she enjoyed, not so much for the money as for the desire to do something interesting. She did a variety of different things, but when she tried to bake gingerbread, she was passionate about it. 

At first, Olena made gingerbread for her family and friends. On New Year's Eve 2022, she took her gingerbread to a store near her home for the first time and was surprised when it sold out quickly. "It was an exciting experience for me. Not even the money - about 300-400 UAH, which we immediately spent in that store - but the fact that my gingerbread was sold out so quickly." Then there were orders for February 14, and many plans for March 8, which were rudely interrupted by the war.

With the start of the full-scale Russian invasion, Olena's husband was constantly on duty, and she stayed at home with her two children.

Constant bombardment began, and the family lived in the basement for a month without water, gas and heating. Olena's youngest son was 1 year and 2 months old at the time: "I remember him eating salo with pickles, everything that was in the basement. There was simply no way to cook something hot. I used to take water in a bottle and warm it behind my back so he wouldn't catch a cold."

A month later, her husband insisted on evacuating and, with the help of friends, organized a car to take Olena and her children to Novoyavorivsk.

The first weeks in the new place were terrifying, full of uncertainty and complete unknown. At the end of May 2022, Olena lost all contact with her husband, who had been taken captive. Escaping from heavy thoughts in a new place and looking for at least some solace, Olena began to think about how to return to her favorite work. Over time, she managed to save some money and buy an electric oven, standard cutters, and start baking. It was time to sell the gingerbread.

"This was another difficult step for me. I went to the local market, got off the bus and made a few laps before I decided to stand with the gingerbread in the most visible place. People started coming up, asking questions, and buying gingerbread. Eventually, I started getting orders to bake gingerbread."

Photo: courtesy of UN Women / Sofia Kunets.
Photo: courtesy of UN Women / Sofia Kunets.

Olena baked her first gingerbread at night in the summer kitchen when she was putting her children to bed. The United Nations International Organization for Migration (IOM) purchased a steam combi oven for Olena, which is now helping her greatly in her work. At the same time, Olena attended various trainings for internally displaced women in the Novoyavoriv community with the support of the NGO Women's Perspectives Center as part of the project "Transformative Approaches to Achieving Gender Equality in Ukraine" implemented by UN Women with financial support from the Government of Sweden in cooperation with the Office of the Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. After one of these trainings, she realized that she needed an Instagram page to further promote herself. This is how the Gingerbread of Dream Instagram page was launched.

Later, Olena was invited to workshops for kids: "Working with children inspires me. When they succeed, when they are so enthusiastic."

"I am really looking forward to my husband's return. If I used to think that he would come back and we would decide together what to do and how to move forward, then later I realized that now I am responsible for the family. Children are growing up, I need to take myself and all my responsibilities in my hands and act, not put off solving important things until later. It is important for me that when my husband comes back, he sees that I have not lost heart, that I have been doing something."

"Now I have only one dream: that he comes back from captivity as soon as possible and the war ends." Olena also wants to fulfill her pre-war plans to travel to Lviv and the Carpathians with her family.

Photo: courtesy of UN Women.
Photo: courtesy of UN Women.
Photo: courtesy of UN Women.
Photo: courtesy of UN Women.


The article was created with the support of the UN Women in Ukraine project "Transformative Approaches to Achieving Gender Equality in Ukraine", funded by the Government of Sweden.