Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ukrainian Easter in Ireland

I've lived in Ireland since 2008, and I have not hosted a traditional Easter lunch until this year. I learned that the Catholic Church in Westport was going to do a blessing of the baskets at 2:30 pm on Easter Saturday and I thought this would be a good year to invite friends over to help us celebrate and to introduce them to the traditions I grew up with. I didn't know then how events would unfold.

Alex's paska ready for the oven.
Alex and I started cooking the Monday before. I actually started three weeks before, marinating the beets for a special borscht. Monday, I drained off the marinated beet juice and cooked it with fresh beetroot, carrots, onions, garlic, celery and beef in a dilution with wild mushroom broth. I strained the broth and stored it in glass jars. Fortunately (or unfortunately), its been so cold that at least I had the garage as storage area for the vast quantities of food we were preparing. That day, I also made the cvikla with fresh beets that I grated with fresh horseradish from our garden. I made the vinaigrette and put the cvikla aside in the fridge to 'develop'. Meanwhile Alex baked a test paska, and it turned out so well that I decided that I'd use that in the basket.

Monday evening our world fell apart with a death in the immediate family. But all I will say about that is that cooking throughout the week helped us maintain our sanity. We decided to continue with the Easter lunch -- that the resurrection would help remind us that there was more to life after death.

Tuesday, I went shopping for the remaining ingredients needed, except for the ham which was specially ordered from Sean Kelly, our premiere butcher in Newport. I got pickled herring, kobasa and kabanos at the Polish store. They also had white eggs for colouring. Typically in Ireland they sell only brown eggs. I bought cheesecake which would spare me the need to make it. I also bought farmer's cheese and a butter lamb, and sliced cheeses.

Wednesday we made the pashtet and I made makivnyk and pishinger for dessert between bursts of tears. The pashtet turned out great. The desserts so so.

Thursday was dedicated to mourning at the funeral. So many friends and neighbours arrived to share the sorrow. Each one takes a bit of your grief and makes it their own, especially in Ireland. There is nothing like an Irish wake and funeral. Much gratitude. Deep breath.

Our Easter table
Friday I baked an apple plyatsok while Alex peeled potatoes for the salads. I spent all day chopping vegetables for the special Ukrainian Easter salad with fresh, cooked and preserved vegetables. I also made my mom's potato salad with dressing made of mayo, mustard, sour cream, vinegar and spices. Yum!

Saturday, we drove to Newport to pick up the ham -- impressive, Kelly's best, and fresh lettuce. Then I prepared the Easter basket while Alex got to work creating breads for the lunch: sourdough white, malthouse and rye as well as Ukrainian paska. He got them all really right.

I arranged the rushnychok in the basket, then the paska, a length of kobasa, lots of coloured eggs, horseradish, salt, butter and cheese and finally my favourite pysanky. I added a candle then covered it with another embroidered rushnychok.

We arrived at St. Mary's just before 2:30 and the church was packed. Our Polish dentists were sitting in the bench we chose and we exchanged greetings. I was so hoping to see a Ukrainian basket, but they were all Polish. The difference is remarkable. The time came and still they were coming. It looked like people had come from all over Mayo and beyond. What a neat thing to witness. It wasn't Ukrainian but it was close.

Polish Baskets

Ukrainian Baskets

The Irish priest came in and asked everyone to bring their baskets up. They lined them up on the steps leading up to the altar. I have never seen so many baskets, very pastel as Polish baskets are. Mine was the most ornate and complex. It was the only Ukrainian basket. I had hoped to identify Ukes in the community by their baskets, but it was not to be. They were all in Dublin from the looks of it. I learned later that there is a Ukrainian church in Dublin and they had a very special Easter celebration. The baskets there all looked like mine.

I cooked the ham all day after that. The house smelled glorious. Alex continued the baking process.

Sunday morning we arose early and got to work. Alex slicing the meats and baking the breads, I heating the borscht and bringing in and arranging all the salads and desserts. I laid the tables, set up the dishes and glasses, pulled out the liquor and arranged the garden furniture in the hopes it might be warm enough to be outside.

Everyone arrived right around 1:00. It turned out lovely and a great distraction. I explained about the significance of the traditions and how each of the foods was a traditional Easter component. People were really interested and surprisingly the favourite dishes were the borscht and cvikla which I did not expect. The ham was delicious and naturally we had way too much food. It would not have been a Ukrainian feast otherwise. Eat! Take home. We were able to sit outside for a part of the time.

Then as the party broke up, we went to the wake of a friend who had passed away two days before of cancer. Young woman and very central to life in Mulranny. Caroline will be missed. Her mother, Mary, hugged us and lamented for our loss when she was feeling it herself. It's an Easter we will never forget. Of course it brought back memories of my sister who died on Good Friday, March 29th that year. Our funeral was March 29 this year. My father was also buried during Holy week, so Easter will be forever a time a darkness on my soul. I suppose I could think of it as passing to a better life, but of that I am not certain. I just know I will be grieving on these days forever. At least there is some comfort in knowing that that they are all at peace.

My distress was such that I completely spaced out and forgot to take pictures, of the basket, the church, the table and everything. I have little to show, except a photo my friend took of my dismantled basket on the table. Suffice it to say, I was on autopilot all week, but each step made a difference in life. I am grateful for small favours.

Христос воскрес! Воїстину Воскрес! 

Khrystos voskres! Voistynu Voskres!

Christ has risen! Indeed He has risen!

Easter Menu

Marinated herring
Potato Salad
Vegetable salad
Lettuce salad
Rye Bread
Apple plyatsok
Bloody Marys
Holy salt

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Movie being made about Holodomor, and book wins prize

Photograph by Alexander Wienerberger, 1933

Starring British Actor James Norton, the movie titled 'Gareth Jones' will tell the story about a Welsh journalist who told the world about what was going on in Ukraine under Stalin.

And Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Applebaum has received the Lionel Gelber Prize for her book 'Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine'.

Perhaps now the world will understand the differences between Russia and Ukraine. And Putin, re-elected in a landslide victory in an election in which there was no credible opposition, will be squealing on his throne.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Four years since Russians invaded Crimea

On the 22 February 2014, President Vladimir Putin convened a meeting with Russian security services to discuss extrication of deposed pro-Russian Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych from Ukraine. Putin reportedly remarked that "we must start working on returning Crimea to Russia."

Friday, January 12, 2018

Notes on immigration

A childhood friend has posted this on his Facebook page, which I am re-posting here. My mother wrote down her story and it sounds very similar. My family were in a DP camp in Italy and were almost prevented from coming to the States because the doctor thought my mother might have TB. She did not and my father "convinced" the doctor that she did not in a rather interesting way. They came over on the Queen Mary through Ellis Island like so many millions of others. My family name is etched on a plaque there. They were sponsored by my aunt and uncle in Philadelphia and in turn sponsored my aunt and uncle who were sent to Australia first instead. Those were dark times, filled with the light of hope.

These are dark times, but the light is burning out.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veselka in NYC a popular night time hangout

It's a long time since I've written in this blog but I just had to share this. It seems everyone has discovered Veselka, the Ukrainian restaurant that's been the centre of Ukrainian life in the East Village of Manhattan for my lifetime. What a great thing to have gone to NYU and had both Veselka and Orchidea close by. The Ukrainian Church across from McSorley's on St. Mark's Place was en route. The Ukrainian butcher shop was down the street. And the Ukrainian Museum was next door. The food there was extraordinary in my youth. I would alternate between pyrohy, varenyky and plyatsky, always Uki style with plenty of sour cream, although they catered to all Eastern European tastes.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Timothy Snyder on the destabilization of Europe and fall of democracy

Image result for on TyrannyImage result for BloodlandsOn March 3, Timothy Snyder, historian and author of books on Stalinist Russia and tyranny, has delivered a disturbing but very insightful lecture about Russia's role in destabilization of Europe. His conclusions are important for anyone analyzing what is happening across Europe today and how we got here.

In his remarks delivered during a  conference entitled “Ukraine, Russia and the EU: Europe, a Year After Crimea Annexation” held in Berlin on March 2, 2015, Snyder examines the tactics used in Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine -- annexing Crimea and starting a war along Russia’s border -- against the backdrop of European history.  He specifically examines the history and memory of World War II. He also looks at how Russia is trying to alter the memory of the aspects of the history that are most disturbing.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Eurovision coming to Ukraine in May 2017

Jamala at Eurovision 2016

As the deadline for entry looming on March 13, the world is wondering if Russia will show this year. With Eurovision set to be staged in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, in May, the political statement from last year's defeat might be an insurmountable hurdle for moscow, where lawmakers and a leading pop star are calling for Russia to boycott the competition. The Kremlin has said it believes there could be security problems for Russians in Ukraine. Following Ukraine's victory at the 2016 contest in Stockholm with the song "1944", written and performed by Jamala, which was thought to be a thinly veiled protest against Russia's annexation of Crimea, a coup of sorts showing European support of Ukraine in the conflict has caused Russia some consternation.