Monday, May 26, 2008

Perogies and Kulbasa!

Being of Ukrainian descent, I take great pride in the President of Ukraine visiting Canada, and being asked to address Parliament. I've never been to Ukraine, or Europe for that matter, but a little bit of the Ukraine lives in our family, they are called perogies and kulbasa.

I remember my parents talking Ukrainian at the dinner table, personally I think they were telling dirty jokes because they would never translate for us kids. My Mom's first language was Ukrainian, but she quickly learnt English as did my Grandfather.

I never tire of hearing the stories of work crews helping with the harvest, the yearly trip from Mundare (home of the biggest kulbasa in the world) to Edmonton by horse buggy, and my Mom's pet pig...until, well you know what happened to that pig! They kept some traditions, but most integrated into Canadian society.

There is a strong Ukrainian community here, but we are not in cultural ghettos like new immigrants in Toronto, we are everywhere. The Ukrainians, Germans, Italians and other European people shaped the west as it is today. It's quiet out here, the Germans are not fighting the Ukrainians, there is no need.

We do seem to have Kurds and Turks attacking each other though! What's up with that?

Anyone who wants an authentic recipe for perogies, cabbage rolls, pickled beets, pickles, or borscht, I've got them, I use them, and I plan to pass them on to my kids, and if you ever eat a real homemade perogy, you will understand why.

So kudos to PM Harper for forging better ties with Ukraine.


Anonymous said...

we are not in cultural ghettos like new immigrants in Toronto

I live in Bloor West Village in Toronto. It has a large Ukranian population. We, also, enjoy our connection to the Ukraine.

It is the oldest Ukranian neighbourhood in Canada. We tend to view ourselves as a community rather than a ghetto.

I must remind you that there is more to Ukranian history and culture than pickled beets and cured pork meat.

You mention that the west was formed by a collection of immigranta coming together. The same is true across Canada.

Our neighbourhood is also richer for the Polish immigrants who live here also. Furthermore, we embrace those arriving from other parts of the world regularily.

You mention that you have never travelled to Europe. Perhaps you would enjoy a visit to our community in west Toronto. We would make you most welcome.

It is much better to enjoy what a culture has to offer before dismissing it as an urban ghetto.

Yours- Marta Tarnawasky

hunter said...

Of course there is more than just the food, and being half Polish I also understand that many cultures make up Canada. My point is that we can be Canadian and still celebrate our ethnic backgrounds without having to live in a community of like individuals, walling ourselves off from other cultures, refusing to assimilate into the Canadian culture.

I am a Canadian who is proud of my Ukrainian/Polish background, but I do not feel the need to visit the "old country" for confirmation of who I am.

I also stated and you repeated it, we are NOT in cultural ghettos like NEW immigrants... many new immigrants, not necessarily Ukrainians, do live in communities where they do not even try to assimilate, that is a "cultural ghetto". Be proud of your ethnic background, but be Canadian first! Are we Canadian-Ukrainians or Ukrainian-Canadians?

I'm a Canadian, with a Ukrainian background because of my great grandparents, but the history I am interested in are the stories of their struggles/life here in Canada, not the Ukraine, that's how they wanted it, and I agree, at some point you have to become just Canadian, no hypens.

Anonymous said...

Hello Hunter. Love your blog.

Kristos Voskres!

I too enjoy hearing the stories of the struggles and difficulties my Ukrainian realatives had to endure.

One story my Dad told me really hit me hard. He said that back in the late 30's and early 40's while he was growing up in rural Saskatchewan, infant mortality was quite high. There was also a demand of sorts for wooden crates that apples and oranges came in. Wooden crates you ask? Coincidentally these wooden crates were just the right size to bury a baby in. Dad said he went to many funerals for babies in 'those days'.

He also tells me about when they used horses to farm with. When they bought thier first tractor. Stooking grain and threshing in the fall.

My Baba (Grandmother)had trained the family dog, a border collie. When they would get home from church on Sunday morning, she'd call the dog and point to one of their ducks or geese and tell the dog to 'get him'. The dog would do as he was told and several hours later it was a duck/goose for dinner!

I could go on, but thanks for helping trigger some old memories!

Anonymous said...

Attended UofA (Edmonton campus hehe) in late 60's and "relished" in the cultural mosaic that is Edmonton. But being a Calgarian born and raised had certain issues with Edmonton's sports teams (again hehe)so returned to work in cow-town. Always appreciated good Ukrainian food, drink and culture - lots of fun.

Any recipes for west coast salmon perogies?

Anonymous said...

we are not in cultural ghettos like new immigrants in Toronto
But you were, when your ancestors were new immigrants, just like all new immigrants.

From here:

Settlement on farms in closely-knit groups greatly influenced Ukrainian development. Nearness to each other gave them security in a strange land and Canada's democratic ways provided an opportunity to use their language and practise their old-country traditions without hindrance from their non-Ukrainian neighbours.

Sounds a lot like what you call a "cultural ghetto", no? Other people call it "settling in".

Usually by the second generation, sometimes it takes until the third, for immigrants to be completely integrated into Canadian society.

JR said...

This brings back fond memories of teenage years in small-town Manitoba. One of our favourite entertainments on a Saturday night was to crash Ukranian and Polish weddings. Man! I can still taste the perogies, holopchi and kulbasa. Not to mention the music and dancing and BEER!

At the risk of dating myself this was in the days before official multi-cult when the various groups managed to celebrate their cultural origins without federal assistance.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the good old days, there was another kind of federal assistance then.

hunter said...

Anon 2:53, good point, that's why I'm glad that MP's from all parties will be voting for the Conservative private member's bill, to apologize for the internment camps.