Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Pickle Project Goes to St. Johnsbury Academy

On Tuesday, May 29th, I had the opportunity to engage in three conversations involving Ukrainian food, place, and culture with high school European history and World Civilization classes at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont. The framework for these conversations included moving borders and the complexity of historical narrative across the differing ethno-linguistic regions in Ukraine.  We focused our conversation on Western, Eastern, and Southern Ukraine paying special attention to differences in language, tradition, and national identity. For residents of Western Ukraine this includes the use of Ukrainian language, history of the Ukrainian insurgent army, and a strong sense of Ukrainian culture. For residents in Eastern Ukraine, it can include the use of Russian and direct ties to the region’s industrial history.  The Southern regions of Ukraine, as well as Crimea, reflect the influence of trade and multi-cultural history. Together we examined whether physical borders could impact national identity, and how? How one’s historical narrative could change across place and time and, above all, what does food have to do with it?
As an independent private high school with boarding students from across the United States and overseas, the conversations included students from China, Finland, Germany, South Korea, and Spain. Each class began with students presenting their end-of-semester research projects, including several that discussed the formation of national identity, and continued with a discussion of Ukraine. We snacked on beet salad while discussing the fundamentals of Ukrainian history and diving into regional traditions and food culture.
 The last portion of the class was spent digging deeper into questions and current events. The accelerated World Civilization class was interested to sift through differences in perception and actuality - “does Ukraine care about Yulia Tymoshenko’s arrest as much as the Western media does?” Other students asked about the relationship between Ukraine and Russia “Are Ukrainians happy that Putin is back in power?” Each of these questions led us deeper into our discussion of regional differences. In addition to being interested in their questions, I was also curious to see their reaction to the beet salad – some excited to dig in and other students approaching with great hesitation.   
Like the April conversation hosted at Shelburne Farms, it was a wonderful opportunity to bring the discussion of Ukrainian traditions home and explore connections to culture and community. Thank you to Helen Wilbur for hosting and to her three history classes for their wonderful comments and conversation.

Christie Bond is a former Peace Corps Volunteer to Ukraine and a Pickle Project enthusiast. She looks forward to continuing the conversations and sharing her love of Ukraine with all she meets!

Photos:  top to bottom:  St. Johnsbury Academy,  Embroiderer in L'viv; the Black Sea in Odessa; and a village in the Donbass Region.

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