MINNEAPOLIS —  From fleeing war-torn Ukraine to starting their own small business here in America, Vlad and Polina Lahoda are planting roots in Minnesota one loaf of bread at a time. 

“In Ukraine, bread is at every breakfast, dinner, lunch, very traditional,” Polina said. 

In Ukraine, Vlad worked in IT and Polina worked in Aromatherapy. But the couple had to flee their home in Kiev after the war began in 2022. 

“We woke up at 5 a.m. to the explosions, and we packed up, and we left in two hours and have never been back since,” Vlad said.

A longtime friendship with a Peace Corp volunteer drew them to Minnesota, where Polina’s passion for baking is now Vlad’s too. 

“When I bake something and give it to someone, I share my love with the person, and now we can share it with so many people and it’s really incredible, we’re so happy for that,” she said. 

Together, they started Heaven Gluten Free Bakery. They offer a variety of loaves that are all vegan, gluten-free and made with natural ingredients. 

“We came here and we could not eat bread. We just felt so bad. Because it’s very different from Europe,” Vlad said.

Polina also has an autoimmune disease and is gluten-free. Despite this, they said their bread is for everyone. 

“Gluten-free food can be delicious. Very delicious and nutritious and good for our body,” Polina said.

Despite the financial challenges of starting a business and scaling it up, the couple feels blessed to be in Minnesota and to share their loaves made with love. 

“We are very grateful for the opportunity to feel safe, to feel free. You don’t know how important it is until you lose it. We think the people here are absolutely incredible,” Vlad said. 

Heaven Gluten Free Bakery sells loaves at a variety of Twin Cities metro locations.

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