Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Cultural Vistas

March is always a challenging month to write for this blog. I’m always super busy and the tail end of Winter always leaves me feeling a lack of creative drive, so pulling together a month’s worth of topics is a struggle to say the least. Last year, in fact, I just took the whole month off. Though to be fair, I was finishing up my last year of grad school and trying to slog through that was trial enough.

But this year I have no handy excuse, so I thought to myself “What is going on during March?” Well, there’s the Ides of March, and St. Patrick’s Day, national tartan day, and the Spring Equinox. Two of those are a bit vague to spread into a whole month’s worth of ideas – especially since I highly doubt we’ll see proper Spring in Regina until sometime in May – but between tartans and good old St. Patrick I had my inspiration: we’ll talk about cultural heritage this month! (Thankfully I’m descended equally from four very different European nations, so it works out nicely to the four week plan).

So we’ll kick things off with the Ukraine, since it seems to be on everyone’s radar due to the events in Eastern Europe.

My Ukrainian heritage is probably the one which I draw on the most. It’s where my last name comes from (though arguably it could be considered Russian, since the parts of the Ukraine that my ancestor emigrated from in 1913 are now part of Russia), and I have a lot of memories that are tied up with Ukrainian traditions. Our big family history book – yes it is an actual published book, though in extremely limited edition – is all about the community of Willingdon, Alberta, where a large settlement of Ukrainian immigrants settled – and where my paternal Grandfather was raised.

People always said I got my bossiness from my paternal German Grandmother, but it’s pretty clear that my Grandfather got his way with some things. Holidays for example, were more often that not done in the Ukrainian style. Rather than just the typical turkey-potatoes-gravy fare of North American Thanksgiving and Christmas, we also got a healthy dose of perogies, cabbage rolls, and natchinka.

As an extremely picky eater, I’m still not sure how I was talked into eating cabbage rolls, but I did. And with gusto. In some cases I would go back for more helpings of just cabbage rolls and no perogies at the monthly Ukrainian hall-hosted dinners – much to the annoyance of the woman who my sister’s and I came to think of as the cabbage roll withholder. “Only two cabbage rolls, and only with a helping of perogies,” she would dictate, much to our annoyance. Apparently the “all you can eat” rule only applied to perogies…

To this day, I would never consider serving up anything but a cabbage roll and perogies feast for holidays – even though it inevitably means eating cabbage rolls for a week, since the recipe can’t really be halved or quartered. Oh well, the more cabbage rolls the better!

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