When is a bear not a bear?

Just finished up another session of Ukrainian language classes.  Yes, I am improving but how much remains to be seen. The 50th Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival is coming up in July and if fortunate enough to attend, I may get to practice my Ukrainian!

If I do get a chance, I hope to be able to slip in a couple of new words that I recently picked up. One of the words is turkey.  When I was growing up, my young ears heard Yendik (with the y pronounced as in yes).  But no: the correct pronunciation is Eendeck (індек).   Maybe it’s the pronunciation in the region in the Ukraine where my grandparents and parents grew up.  I know that’s not just me either.  I telephoned a few of my relatives and they too said Yendik.

But here’s another word.  It’s bear.  How do you say bear in Ukrainian?

Since a very young age, I have always said Medveed (медвід).  I found out from my Ukrainian language teacher that it’s pronounced Vedmeed (ведмід).  I have been mispronouncing it for many years!

Let me take you back to when I was only around 7 years of age.

One Sunday afternoon, when my family was out on one of our infamous afternoon drives (see one of my earlier posts “June 14, 2013”) we came to the house where my mom was born.

My Gido and Baba had built the house when they had first moved to Canada.  It had been empty for a number of years now, but it still had a thatched roof and the clay and straw stucco on the outside walls.


We were all outside exploring the yard.  I recall the day as being bright, sunny and very hot.

My brother was looking for snakes in the tall grass behind the house.  My mom was up close to the windows peering in and trying to recognize the rooms inside.  My dad was at the door.  I was right behind him because I was curious to see what was inside.
Dad was trying to pull open the old wooden door.  It was still on its hinges, although they were rusty and crumbled to the touch.  With a bit of effort and a large creaky noise, it opened.

Well, just as he was about to step inside, my mom yelled out from the other side of the house,  “Medveed! Look out! Medveed!”.

Well it didn’t take long for any of us to run away from that house!  It must have been a funny sight because I remember seeing my dad run really fast and jumping into the driver’s side door and slamming it shut.  Of course I had been right behind him too.  My mom and brother too had high-tailed it back to the car.  I remember seeing everyone’s eyes as being big as saucers and everyone telling their own version of what they saw.

“Maybe it wasn’t a medveed?  Maybe it was a black crow or raven?  Could it have been a bobcat? No, no, it had to have been a bear. What else could it have been?”

Was it really a bear?   To this day, no one in my family can say for sure.

But one thing I do know.  No matter how you say bear, it makes for a great story.

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