Archive | July 2013

It happened 48 years ago…

It’s July, 1965.

It was a typical summer in Manitoba and for a young seven-year old, the sunny, hot and dry days were filled with long hours of doing nothing. Nothing but lazing about the backyard, popping caragana pods, playing fetch with the dog, picking the neighbour’s crab apples or maybe getting together with a best friend at the schoolyard to ride the teeter-totter. If it was too hot outside, I would sometimes play paper dolls in the house with my sister.

Paper dolls? Yes, but not the kind that you may have seen in the stores. The paper dolls I am talking about did not come from any store. No, my sister and I got our paper dolls from the Eaton’s mail order catalogue.

Twice a year, our mom would receive an Eaton’s catalogue in the mail. If we were really lucky, we’d be able to cut pictures from the latest catalogue. We’d select the best looking mom and cut her out, and then we’d find her a husband and cut him out. We’d select clothes for each of them to wear.

Once I glued an outfit over my doll, tore her trying to take it off, and of course, then had to have a funeral for her. She had to be replaced. But you could do that because the catalogue was full of great models and as long as they had complete bodies then we’d use them to play with. We’d cut out babies and teenagers too. The paper doll family sometimes had up to six children. We’d use the empty Lucky Elephant popcorn boxes to make cars for them to drive around in.

Hard to believe that I have these memories of paper dolls from 48 years ago.

It must have been a memorable year because other memories stand out from that summer of ’65.

This was the year that our family drove to the West Coast for the first time. It was the year that I went to catechism and celebrated my first Holy Communion. More on this in another blog.

It was also the year that we went to the first Ukrainian festival in Dauphin.

Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival has been going strong now for 48 years. In fact, this year, it’s happening in just 8 more days!

I am sure that the people of Dauphin are getting pretty excited.

When I was seven, I especially remember the festival’s Thursday night street dancing.  A live band would set up on the back of a hay wagon and the people, visitors and the locals, would dance on the asphalt in the middle of Main Street. No fancy dancing shoes required and anyone could join in.  It didn’t matter if you were older or very young like me. And everyone did join in because once you heard the beat of the drums or the fiddles play some of the old-time Ukrainian music you just couldn’t help yourself and you’d join in.

Now through the eyes of a seven-year old, I recall that the grandstand was pretty spectacular that first year.  My family went to an evening show and it was hot and muggy. I think it was dusty too because of the race track. The festival was held at the fairgrounds back then.  There was lots of singing and of course Ukrainian dancing. I am remembering a lot of great performers.

Wonder if the late Al Cherny played his fiddle that year?

Did Hoosli Ukrainian Folk Ensemble sing?  (

I do remember that Luba Goy performed one year too. (

Over the years, the festival has changed quite a lot. It’s now at the Selo, just south of Dauphin. The grandstand performances are much bigger with local talent as well as  international performers. The displays and demonstrations are so colourful and informative. I especially love watching the pysanky decorating. The hot bread from the clay ovens and the Ukrainian food from food kiosks are so delicious. It could take days to see everything. It’s a good thing that the festival is 3 days long!

I do not have any photos for this post but do take a look at the festival site  if you want to know more about this year’s upcoming events in Dauphin.

And remember, especially if you are going to the festival, there are only two kinds of people in the world, those who are Ukrainian and…those who want to be!

See you at the festival!

Have a great couple of weeks!

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Picking peas !

Have you ever been going about your daily chores, just minding your own business, maybe even humming a song,  when “wham”…you are back in time ?

Well it happened to me today. No, I don’t mean physically. I am referring to travelling back to my childhood memories. Of course it may of happened to you and it has happened to me before as well. But today was more unique than any other time. Wonder why?

I was outside when I experienced this blast back to my past, back well over to 50 years ago. Maybe it’s the Summer heat?  Maybe feeling nostalgic? Might be the smell of fresh turned soil in my garden?

It was a good day to do a bit of gardening because it was very hot and sunny outside.

As you know, I grew up on the prairies in Canada and if you have ever been there, you’ll know it is sunny with clear blue skies, often very hot and dry during the Summer, and come dusk, full of mosquitoes. Perhaps it was the mosquito buzzing around me in my garden that triggered my memory. Perhaps it was the peas.


There I was, 1966, picking peas in our family’s нород (garden).  Mom and dad always planted a huge garden in the back of our yard. We relied on these garden vegetables to help us get through the winter months. Fresh produce was not only hard to come by in our small town but it was very expensive to buy in the stores. In fact, I never tasted store bought lettuce until I was in my late teens. Mom would preserve and freeze as many of the vegetables that she could. We stored jars of canned tomatoes, dill pickles, sauerkraut and pickled beets in our dirt root cellar. We also stored jute bags full of potatoes and carrots.


Our garden provided a lot. Sometimes we even traded vegetables with other gardeners and farmers.

Any vegetable that you could imagine had a place to be planted and had to have time to grow. The plants needed to be watered, hoed and yes, weeded.

In the Spring, dad would borrow a tractor from my uncle (дядько метро) and till the soil. If he couldn’t borrow it, he turned the ground using a fork and shovel.  This usually happened after the May long weekend when the frost was finally out of the ground.  I close my eyes and can still smell the fresh turned soil.

My job was to help mom. I had to stand and hold one end of the 50 foot length of twine (wrapped around a stick), while mom measured out exactly where the other end would go. The rows had to be straight and evenly spaced. The сапа (hoe) was used to dig down 3-4 inches or more. The potato hills took up the most room, followed by the rows of corn. Then came the beans, the carrots, beets and of course the green peas.

Today, as I pick peas in my own garden, I am transformed back to my parents’ garden. I can still hear the pea pods snap open to reveal the tender young green peas. Maybe my mind is flooded with these memories because eating the peas in the garden back then was forbidden!  We were never allowed to eat the young peas until they were ready for picking. But it was so tempting.  While down on our hands and knees pulling weeds, the peas could very easily be snapped off and consumed well before mom noticed us munching them. Never mind about any of the dirt. It was all good.

My brothers, sister and I thought we were pretty clever, but I think mom knew. Perhaps that’s why we had the job of shelling the 5 gallon buckets full of peas a few weeks later in early August !


Funny how working in my garden today brought on these memories. I picked the peas today from my garden and I’m going to add them to the borscht (борщ) that I made today. Mmm, no guilt here!  Смачний !


Wonder what’ll happen when it’s time to pick the corn?

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