U.Cake bakery co-owner Mykola Bilovol. Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Ukrainians who fled Russia’s invasion and opened a bakery here are thriving and hiring for a second location.

Mykola and Iryna Bilovol arrived in Southwestern Ontario last summer with their two kids after fleeing to Poland from their home in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine.

About three months after opening a bakery in Strathroy, the couple expanded the business to a second location three times the size and started hiring more help.

“It’s a great feeling. We wanted to do the same thing” back in Ukraine, said Mykola. “This was a dream to have a cafe. We tried to make our dream come true.”

When the Bilovols opened U.Cake bakery in early January, five flavours of macarons were offered on their limited menu. They were still waiting for a point of sale terminal to arrive.

Now, with the right payment system, gift cards and an expanded menu offering about 10 macaron flavours, U.Cake has become the town’s one-stop shop for all things sweets.

“We make really specific kinds” of macarons, Biloval said, listing cheesecake, lavender with blueberry and sea buckthorn, to name a few.

But despite the creativity and work locating the ingredients for their recipes, he is baffled by customers’ top picks.

“People want just plain milk chocolate,” Mykola said with a laugh. “Sometimes double chocolate.”

The bakery inside the shopping mall at 51 Front. St. E. also offers chocolate-covered strawberries, cakes, crepes, cookies and brownies. It also has a breakfast-lunch menu of traditional Ukrainian dishes, including borsch.

U.Cake is a boon for Strathroy, local resident Matt Beselaere said at the shop this week. His family lives near the Bilovals and their eight-year-old boys play hockey together.

“They’ve come here and done so well. They’re awesome,” Beselaere said.

About seven million Ukrainians have fled their country since last year’s invasion on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations.

While Mykola takes pride in growing the business, he said the process has had its share of challenges.

“Of course this is a better place, but there were a lot of troubles to get here,” he said.

Putting their savings into the bakery is a risk, Mykola says, but one they hope will pay off.

“We are ready to do this. We wanted to do this from the beginning,” he said.

By Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 21, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   London Free Press   London, Ontario
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