Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Ukrainian Writer.

By heritage of my mother's mother, I am of Ukrainian descent. My baba, Sophie ( Софія),was a wonderful baba---of the very round and jolly kind.  She passed away at the age of 96, eight years ago. In all her 80 years in Canada, she never learned much English and I never learned much Ukrainian, but we communicated with gestures and the few words we each knew of the other's language.

Baba Sophie came to Canada as a pre-arranged bride at sixteen years old, to escape the war. She left her family in a village near Hordenka, in Ivano-Frankivist Oblast, Ukraine to marry a man of Ukrainian decent , John Zaharko, whom she never met before coming to Canada.
Baba Sophie Pidwerbeski and Gido John Zaharko. 1924

Gido John had already set up a farm in Alberta, Canada, so this was to be her destiny---a farmer's wife in a strange land.

Baba Sophie would never talk much about what happened during the war, and she vowed never to set foot on Ukrainian soil again. Although, she did love Ukraine while growing up there and before the war. Throughout her life in Canada, she always kept in contact with the relatives in Ukraine, sending what money or gifts she could.

Baba Sophie Pidwerbeski taught me how to make many Ukrainian dishes. I still enjoy making these dishes and have them on all special occasion. These are my favorites:

Babka: another Easter bread, usually a sweet dough with raisins and other dried fruit.
Borscht (borshch) is a vegetable soup made out of beets, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, dill
Varenyky (Perogy): Dumplings stuffed with fillings such as potato and cheese, often served boiled.
Cabbage rolls (holubtsi/holubchi): cabbage leaves (fresh or sour) rolled with rice filling and may contain meat (minced beef or bacon)
Mlyntsi: crêpes (blyntsi or nalisnyky), filled usually with cottage cheese, meat, cabbage, fruits, served with sour cream
Pyrizhky: Small potato filled buns baked in thickened rich cream and dill.
Kutia: traditional Christmas dish, made of poppy seeds, wheat, nuts, honey, and delicacies.

My mother and two of her brothers are all that are left of their immediate family. The three of them all converse in fluent Ukrainian, but I fear they are the last generation (in Canada) to do so.
Baba Sophie's 3 sisters and great niece, Ukraine, 1985

My way of keeping my heritage alive will be in preparing these Ukrainian dishes for our family gathering.

Baba Sophie and Gido John both passed away before my first book was published. They never knew that I became a children's book writer.

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