Dima’s Vodka: surviving the Russia-Ukraine war
The CEO of Dima’s speaks about the challenges of being a Ukrainian vodka producer in the midst of the war, and his work to raise as much money as possible for charities supporting Ukraine.
“Business takes a secondary view when you’re trying to ensure people are safe and alive,” says Dima Deinega, founder of Dima’s, speaking exclusively to The Spirits Business.
In February, Deinega received a call at 4:30am from his family in Ukraine, who told him they were under attack from Russia.
Since then, the Russo-Ukrainian war has ravaged the nation, resulting in thousands of fatalities.
“Nearly all my family is there. We managed to get my grandmother out, she’s in the UK with me now, which is some positive news,” Deinega says.
“It’s a miracle they have survived. I was born in Ukraine, and all my family are from there.”
Since Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Deinega has been using his vodka brand Dima’s to fundraise as much as possible for the country, while campaigning for its culture and the people. The brand launched in 2020.
“I’ve always wanted to get involved with helping the country, promoting it in a positive light. I always wanted to make something that highlighted both Ukraine and its culture as well as the actual vodka making.
“Then, obviously, Russia invaded Ukraine and everything changed,” he adds.
Deinega explains that production has “completely shut down”, as the city where it is based has been “shelled very heavily”.
“I’ve talked to a few of the employees, and they’re in different parts of the country, which is great news. Other people have lost their phones, or moved elsewhere to a different country. It’s been such a mass movement of people from Ukraine, it’s very difficult to track who’s gone where and so on,” he says.
As a result, the brand has adapted its business model and is currently operating from the UK, where Deinega is currently based.
“Dima’s has changed from being a commercial business to effectively being a fundraising avenue,” he explains.
Deinega reveals that since the invasion, bottles of Dima’s have been rationed to “have the most charitable impact”.
“Originally, I brought over 20,000 bottles to the UK in case there were ever transport issues. Effectively I’m now doing the opposite of business. The brand isn’t active financially – I’m mostly giving the bottles away to maximise fundraising,” he explains.
With the bottles available, Dima’s has been carrying out collaborations with bars, which use the vodka to create Martinis to sell for raising funds, and donate towards items such as first aid kits for Ukraine. Additionally, bar events have been hosted with venues such as Pinch and Coupette.
“London-based restaurant Sam’s Riverside had a cocktail for March where all the proceeds went to Ukraine – they used my vodka and didn’t ask for me to get behind it – and that raised more than £2,000 (US$2530), from one cocktail in one month at a singular venue,” Deinega says.
“It was the number one selling cocktail, and they kindly donated all the revenue.
“The support that the industry has given is amazing. People are giving up so much of their time.”
The brand is currently donating £5 (US$6.33) per bottle of Dima’s vodka sold, which has raised nearly £2,000 for Ukraine since starting the scheme one month ago.
Earlier this month, the brand’s partnership with Cook for Ukraine, which fundraises through cooking events, generated £1 million (US$1.2m). Dima’s flagship cocktail, the Pickletini, was paired with meals for events.
People “becoming numbed”
When asked what needs to be talked about more with regard to the ongoing war, Deinega stresses that awareness of the atrocities continues.
“The industry is doing as much as it can, but the important thing now is that awareness continues,” he says.
“People are becoming a bit numbed to the figures involved and the atrocities that are happening.
“You hear some of the amazing character traits, and the spirit that Ukrainians have shown is genuinely beyond what the world has ever seen, and we’re in awe. It’s a balance between showing the incredible strength and resilience of the people, and the fact that the war is sadly very much still going on.”
Earlier this year, The Spirits Business spoke to CEO of Ukrainian vodka brand Nemiroff on the Russo-Ukrainian war.