Monday, July 31, 2006

Alyona’s Cabbage Pie Sensation

For the filling, you will need:
1 kg. of white cabbage
2-3 onions
20 g. butter
salt and pepper
oil for frying

Cut the cabbage into medium strips and boil in salted water until the cabbage has lost its crunchiness and is tender. Lightly fry 2-3 onions. Add the cabbage, cover and fry the mixture on low heat for 10-15 minutes. Add 1 T. sugar, 20g. of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Taste the filling; it should definitely have a bite to it and should not be bland.

For the dough, you will need:
1 packet of dry yeast (15 g.)
2 T. warm milk
1½ T. sugar
½ t. salt

Mix well in a large bowl until yeast bubbles appear in the mixture. Add 5 eggs,
200 g. sour cream, and 2 ½ cups of flour. Mix well and begin adding single tablespoons of flour to the dough until the dough cannot absorb anymore flour and becomes fluffy and elastic. Cover the dough and place in a warm part of the room (preferably without a draft) and let stand for 1-2 hours. The dough should double in size.

Leave margarine out to soften at room temperature for an hour. Take 150 g. of margarine and divide it into separate portions. Sprinkle some flour on your workspace and pour entire dough onto it. With your fingers, spread the dough out and form a large rectangle. Take a portion of the margarine and spread thoroughly across the top of the dough. Take each side and wrap into itself like an envelope. Let stand for ½ hour. Follow the above steps again and let dough stand for ½ hour.

Preheat oven to 240 Degrees. Divide the dough into 2 unequal parts, the larger will serve as the foundation and the lesser part will serve to cover the pie. Spread the larger portion onto an oiled baking sheet and put the filling on top. Shred 2 hardboiled eggs and sprinkle on top of the filling. Shape the lesser portion on a floured workspace into a rectangle and cover the pie. Take 1 egg yolk and spread on top of the pie. When the pie has been put into the oven, reduce heat to 200 Degrees and bake for 40-60 minutes.

As dictated by Alyona, the master pie maker this side of the Atlantic Ocean, to Zhenia, her devoted student and #1 fan. “It is my wish for anyone who completes this recipe to get a tasty and beautiful pie. I invite you all to my house so that we can all enjoy it”.

Where it all began...

25th July

At its heyday, the Skorinets village, where my Cossack great-great-grandfather settled his family in the late 18th century, was once a thriving and populated community. My grandfather could not in a million years pass the opportunity to show me where our family tree planted its roots. The photo below begins our tour on a rough dirt road to the village.

My great-great grandfather, Nazar, built this very house to accommodate his wife and 8 children. As we walked around the gate to take a closer look, a woman came out and asked us if we wanted to come in. We went inside the gate with smiles and kind words and were offered nothing less as my grandfather talked about the customs and celebrations of the villagers and what had changed in the village since his youth.

Dedushka Andrey stopped to say hello to everyone we passed as a sign of respect. His easy conversation with the villagers made me proud and much at ease since the journey without him would be impossible. I kept thinking about Alex from Toronto making a similar journey back to where his family came from and the similarities of our experiences.

My gramps and me sitting underneath a tree.

Other photographs of interest…


24th July

Being a historian buff and a nationalist in his own right, my grandfather, Dedushka Andrey, was especially proud to give us a tour of Chernigiv, not only revered in Slavic culture as an important town dating back to Kyivan Rus but also a starting point for my father’s family. Before the war, when my great-grandmother was imprisoned in the Siberian gulags, my great-grandfather Gregory would ride the short trip on his carriage from his village to Chernigiv to sell the produce he had grown in his garden. After the war, a large part of my family moved to Chernigiv to work and live there. My grandfather worked in the grey administration building across the square.
On the outskirts of town, my great-aunt Pasha lives on # 33 ½ Fedorovska Street and welcomed us for a hearty dinner and offered us all a bed for the night.
Great-aunt Pasha was born the same year as my grandfather and through the years they have become great friends. She has one furry tomcat that leaves very early and comes back late at night. As many as 4 neighborhood cats arrogantly roam in her garden and her house, giving Pasha a never-ending headache.
The next day we made plans to see a cluster of ancient churches that ornate the town as well as the famous Antonyi’s caves. Beforehand, a solid half an hour was spend at the market in the dry sausage section as Zhenia and Dedushka Andrey picked out their very favourites.

Antonyi’s caves were founded by the Greek Saint Antonyi in the 11th century after Orthodoxy was adopted by Kyivan Rus as the official religion. He and his followers dug a series of caves where they worshipped, studied and lived here in recluse.


14th July – 16th July

Masha and her husband Volodia (another one) invited us to Odesa for the weekend which was great because we were planning to make our own trip down but all the trains were booked. We spent a couple of day in a “sanatoria” right on the shore of the Black Sea.

The styles on the beach were entertaining, dominated by butt-floss worn by both men and women, especially the old wrinkly ladies and the fat hairy geezers.
The beach was especially lovely at the end of the day when the sand cooled down and pink and blue fingertips left their marks on the sky.
We ate great shishlick and Uzbek food by the shore and watched the weekend fireworks.

Volodia and Masha gave us a whistle stop tour of Odesa which featured walking down the Potemkin steps to “Baby Schwartzenegger”, the local joke that supposedly celebrates Soviet youth and strength (we think).

Odesa’s hidden charm lies in the quiet courtyards between facing apartment buildings with overgrown vines and whispering alleyways.
Alexander Pushkin’s memorial.
The famous Opera & Ballet Theatre designed in Habsburg baroque style.

Old Kiev with Grandad

My grandfather had insisted on showing us Old Kyiv before we even arrived into Ukraine; we gladly accepted. Kyiv stretches 2,000 years back to the founding of the city by three Slavic brothers Ky (who gave the city its name), Shchek, and Khoriv and their sister Lybid.

We started our day at the Golden Gate, which was erected in 1037 by Yaroslav the Wise and served as the main entrance into the ancient city.

As we walked within the borders of the Golden Gate, my grandfather showed me where my father and his brothers lived and the courtyard they played in; the school my grandmother and her sister attended after the war and the streets my grandfather used to pass on his way to work.

The Kyiv-Pecherska Lavra, or senior monastery of the caves, is considered by pilgrims as the holiest ground in the country. Here my grandfather climbs the Great Bell that used to hang in the nearby Bell Tower to read and translate the ancient inscription for us.

The seven gold domes of the Orthodox Dormition Cathedral was erected in 1077 but was completely demolished by the retreating Soviet Army during WWII, which is why it looks so white and new. During our visit to the Monastery, we noticed a large crowd of people pacing around the Cathedral and found out that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was awaiting the arrival of the right hand of St. John the Baptist from Jerusalem.

I ended our tour rather quickly when my grandfather yelled out that the anxiously awaiting Moscow patriarchs (who historically reigned over the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) were “former KGB members”. To say the least, it was a funny moment.

We went back to my grandfather’s apartment and celebrated with a bottle of his special home brew (it’s not actually martini) and some good home cooked food.

Meet the Folks...

We have stayed in Kyiv amidst the company of some great people too long not give them an introduction.

The matriarch and culinary extraordinaire of the motherland, Alyona. This lady’s a card shark that would make Las Vegas tremble.
Volodia, a man deserving of much praise for his comprehensive and wordy explanations. He has the patience of five chess grandmasters put together and can melt any lady’s heart with his smile.
Masha, Alyona’s daughter and Zhenia’s older sister. She gives a new meaning to second hand finds with her fashion nose for less. This fashionista loves to dance to Ghengis Kahn’s greatest hits.
Alyosha, Masha’s son plays football almost as badly as Tom, however, he’s a successful Rollercoaster Tycoon (2) and is a dab hand at poker, jacking cars and solitaire. Nobody messes with Grandad, or as we say here, Dedushka. Andrey Gregorovich Nagorny not only has the best moustache both sides of the Dnipro River he can also silence any rowdy crowd with a mere raise of his eyebrow.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Zhenia comes home

10th July

For all of you that know (or might not),
Zhenia and her family emmigrated to the United States in 1989. This would be her first trip back in 17 years….

I had many fears coming to back to my old apartment building and the playground where my sister and I spent many afternoons giggling and amusing ourselves. It had been so many years since I walked down Zakrevskoya Ulitsa or had caught the tram that zipped down this street. I feared that my childhood, safe in the confines of my memory, sheltered me and also made me a bit naïve to all that might have changed since I left. But as I jumped off the bus, I began to remember everything.

Zhenia walking down Zakrevskoya Ulitsa midst the blooming lime-trees and horse chestnut.
The tram still works but will soon become obsolete and replaced by the tram-bus. It is as if the tram was waiting for my arrival!
The old brown soviet-type building is a food market that has been slightly changed on the inside. Sasha, do you remember how we took that baguette of bread without paying and mama made us go back and apologize?
Ice cream in a cup with Little Mermaid wrapper. What more can a girl ask for?

The road to my apartment building was paved with these great big cement blocks, too big for a 7 year old to have to tackle on her own. I used to hold my mothers hand and jump from block to block. It felt so good to hop from block to block by myself.
I grew up on the 8th floor, 8th window from the right in apartment 93. In the main lobby downstairs there are still two elevators (one big on the left and one small on the right) which rattle and clank whilst in mid-air.
The stadium can still be viewed from the balcony of the building.
“Zhenia’s coming home tour” would naturally end in this spot, my old playground. It isn’t much by the look of it but does hold many fond and innocent memories for me. I couldn’t hold back the tears.

Sasha, do you remember the jump rope we would tie around the cement columns and compete for the fanciest jumping combination?

Lviv to Kyiv

8th July

We were absolutely fearless when we joined the queue to buy train tickets to Kyiv. Having survived and conquered the Morocco’s bus system and other difficult situations, we thought we were more than equipped to handle the 8 1/2 journey….

Our carriage resembled more of a dorm room with empty beer bottles strewn around the leftovers from a food fight (chicken of course). Our neighbors had obviously been drinking the night before and were now dozing very loudly in time to the train’s melodic sway.

This was literally the width of the “bed” we were given, the least said about it’s length the better. All the windows were locked in the 35ْC afternoon but we kept on smiling…

During the second half of the train journey, our happy neighbors woke up and decided to celebrate again. We were chatted up in Polish and/or Ukrainian half mumbled drunken stupor and were offered what can only be described as Ukrainian moonshine; homemade from plums (apparently), not that it tasted of anything except it’s 70% alcohol content.