Friday, April 23, 2010


Today is the day that we celebrate the birth of my Papa. During my recent trip to Ukraine I was able to go to the village that he grew up in. Zelenyy Kut. It is a small village 10-15 minutes from Kotovsk. The village still has the dirt roads that he must have traveled. I used to joke as I grew up that when he told the stories about having to walk up hill to school freezing in the snow- he was actually serious. In visiting there I was able to see the house where he spent his years till joining the Soviet Navy. The structures were still there, though only echos of what they used to be. I could still imagine him and his sisters working the fields. Growing their crops and tending their animals that would sustain them through winter.

Walking the dirt roads

Papa and his sister

Papa's childhood home

Not far from down the road is the village graveyard. Here is where his parents, cousins, and two sisters are buried.

Anya and her Great Grandpa

Through a trying experience he came to the U.S. in the early 50's. Later he became a U.S. citizen and continued working hard in his profession as a mill worker. After joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints he met my mom, they were married and would spend the next 33 years working hard on his land in Coos Bay.

Papa and his Naturalization papers

An instant family.

I never understood until later in my life how much he instilled from his upbringing into mine. I am grateful for learning of his love of the land and what it could provide. I love that in meeting his sister in Ukraine that I could see attributes and skills that they shared. Things that must have been taught in youth and passed on to other generations. I know he was happy that we went to visit his homeland. I felt him there. I also know he is bringing happiness to his family were he is now.

This is one of my favorites!

Happy Birthday Papa!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

That Easter Morn

This Easter provided a once in a lifetime experience. We woke up at 4:40 am so we could get ready to leave the house by 5 am. The walk was short, and surprisingly not cold. The first thing I noticed was that the road was blocked off to the church. As I got closer to the church I started to see all the people lined up facing each other, creating a wide path. It seemed that all the town of Kotovsk was there. Each person, or small group of people had a basket with eggs, Paska bread, and anything else they wanted to bring to be blessed for Easter. It was explained that the priest or "Batushka" was inside and one could go in and be blessed. The other option, which I noticed many chose, was to stay outside and wait for the priest to come out and bless all that stood in line, and their baskets. As the sun rose for the day it outlined the church beautifully, creating an almost glow. Finally, when the sun had risen the bells started to ring and the Batushka came out to bless everyone. How this was done was by him placing a small broom-like brush into a bucket of water, and then spraying all who wanted. He also blessed the baskets in the process. As he passed by he was followed by people holding a large basket that people could fill for the poor. After our turn we headed back to the house. We were at the front of the procession. As we walked there were so many others waiting. It really was a beautiful experience.

You can see in the basket the Paas died eggs mixed with the Ukrainian egg wrappers.

Later in the day we introduced Elya and Anya to an American Easter egg hunt, complete with Reeses, Peeps, Easter grass, and baskets. It was so rewarding to watch them hunt for the eggs hidden throughout the house. Then they treated us to a hunt for some Ukrainian presents for us.

The day was complete with wonderful food, family, and great memories none of us will soon forget.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Ukrainian Family

With the passing of my father this past year I was really worried about how I would keep in touch with the extended family in Ukraine. Not speaking the language myself kind of created a huge barrier. I really relied on him being able to contact them and then update me on how they were doing. Now that I was able to actually meet them my worries are now gone. I am so happy and grateful for the opportunity to spend time with them and get to know them in their home environment. I love them.

Lena (My Cousin) lives out in the village of Zelenyy Kut. She seemed to be more reserved, but that could be due to the language barrier. She makes sour cream and sells it in Odessa which is 4 hours away by train. I only got to spend a few hours with her but she did say I could come and stay forever if I wanted to.

Vetaly (Lena's husband) and Ruslan (Lena's son). Vetalty is so darn cute and charming. I loved to watch him move about the kitchen area preparing things. He always had a huge smile on his face. Ruslan works in the police at the train station in Kotovsk. He is not far from his father in personality.

Oksana (my cousin) and Anya (Oksana's daughter). Oksana is very polished and poised. She works long hours as a teacher in a private school. She is so good at her job. Actually she is good at everything she does. Oksana has a gift for making things beautiful. She redecorated her apartment in such a lovely way, paying attention to even the smallest details. She is very good at cooking and never ceased to surprise us with a new creation. I also loved watching her interaction with her family. I love how you could see how much she cared for each one of them.

Anya I already told you about in another post. I am sure I could write more though.

Oksana and Vova

Anya and her grandmother (Vova's mother). I loved Vova's mother. I was only with her a short time, and could not even speak with her. She had such a kind and gentle look about her. She radiated love and happiness. I just wanted to be near her.

Elya (Oksana's son). His other name was the little monkey. Elya is everything a little boy is supposed to be. Loud, funny, and mischievous. He had a cold while we were there so we did not see him as much as Anya. But he made up for it when we did get to see him. He loves to sing, especially American Christmas songs.

Aunt Lida. She is constantly making sure everyone is OK and has everything they need. She would not let us go out the door without all the proper footwear, layers of clothing, or an escort. Darilyn and I wanted to go out for a walk one morning and she just pleaded with us (of course in Russian so we had no idea what she was actually saying), not to go. She is a fantastic cook. I don't think I could even try to recreate some of them. She has some amazing stories. Some of my most memorable moments were when Aunt Lida would tell stories and Anya would translate.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

eCTb, eCTb, eCTb

In case you were wondering, eCTb is "eat" in Russian. This is the word that we heard most often here. They would ask if we wanted chai (tea)? We would say yes, and the next thing we knew there was a 3-4 course meal in front of us. Then Lida would come up and say "eat, eat eat!" The thing was though, it was all so good. All made at home food. The word Mcdonalds was not known among our family. My favorite? I don't know if I could name one! There were so many unique and oh so tasty things. Some were favorites that I grew up eating and had no idea were traditional Ukrainian dishes. Some others were ones that Oksana created on her own that I immediately would write down so I could try to recreate.

Lemon with sugar, coconut, and chocolate. (from Lena a cousin).
One of Darilyn's favorite.

Meatballs wrapped in puff dough. (Oksana original).

Oksana would make fancy jello! With fruit, ice cream, chocolate.

I could go on and on with all the food. One of my favorite days though was making kurtoflaniki. Ok this was spelled pretty much phonetically with the help of Anya. This dish consisted of thinly grated potatoes fried in thin layers and then you put a cheese mixture and fold it over. Lots of butter and oil, but oh so good. Lida allowed me to help and had me do the last few batches with her close supervision. After that I was allowed to help clear and set the table for meals. During the preparation process Anya and I danced around the living room singing "kurtoflaniki, kurtoflaniki" to the annoyance of my napping sister and mother.

Hello Ukraine

It is 18.10 Kiev time right now, meaning it is 08.10 in the morning for all you Americans out there. We have arrived by a wild and crazy journey to Kiev today. The wild and crazy journey will have to wait for when I am ready to update you all on that part. For now, I will update you on our journey to Ukraine.

Papa had stated that when he passed away he wanted us to bring some inheritance to his family in Ukraine. Of course I could not object. Firstly, because I would never turn down an opportunity to travel to another country. Secondly, because I love him very much. When the time came for our journey Darilyn picked a date, I got time off of work, and mom purchased our tickets with our inheritance.

The flight out on the 29th was good. No complications. No problems. Pretty much some smooth flying and great pre-arrangements. Once we got to Kiev and got through customs my stress was rising a little. Who is meeting us at the airport again? Oksana's husband? Did he know the time? Where will we know where to met him? We walked out of the customs and baggage area and were greeted immediately by two of the most wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.


and Vova.

Anya (My cousin Oksana's daughter,) is a joyful burst of love and energy. She is one you immediately fall in love with and cannot wait to be around again. Anya was our translator for the journey. A pretty big job for one so young and small. She was amazing though and constantly came running whenever we called "Anya!" to help translate.

Vova (Oksana's husband,) is one of the finest examples I have ever met of what a father, a husband, and a friend should be. He never failed to come and escort us around the city. Never allowing us to carry bags, open doors, or even walk behind him. He always had a mischievous smile when he could not understand what we were asking, and would follow it with, "No speak English.", or a "Sorry, no understand. Bad translator." We were always grateful for the effort put forth for our safety, comfort, and need to get out of the house.

With Anya's translation and Vova's guidance we made it to the train station and to Kotovsk. It was my first time traveling by train and I was extremely happy that we had a sleeper. Once in Kotovsk we walked the short distance to Lida's house. Lida is Papa's sister. I had a hard time keeping the emotion in when I saw her. She is all that I ever imagined.

Enough stories for today though. It has taken me an hour to get this out and I am still feeling the movement of the train rocking as I sit here. Till then...