Friday, April 25, 2014

A Platinum Anniversary for Peter and Julie Noznick

The wedding of Peter Noznick and Julia Koshuba, April 23, 1944.  From left:  Mary Tophen, Evelyn Koshuba, Julie's cousins. Olga Haywa, Anna Romanchuk, Julie's aunt, Peter and Julia, Wayne Kiley, Stephen Koshuba, Julie's uncle. Mike Rychly, Julie's cousin, Larry Karelik

 Seventy years ago, on April 23, 1944, during the third year of World War 2, my parents, Julie Koshuba and Peter Noznick married.   My mother was a stenographer at Family Service of St Paul, (which was located where the Ordway Theater stands today).  My father was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota, working on his PhD. in biochemistry.


I’m not sure how they met, it is possible that they were introduced by Dr. Mykola Haydak, who was a professor at the University, and my mother’s step-father, since his office was on the Farm Campus in St Paul, where my father had some classes.

My father came to Minnesota in the fall of 1938, from Connecticut, graduating from the University of Connecticut with a degree in Chemistry.  He missed the devastating Hurricane of 1938 by a few weeks. 

Peter Noznick and friends, graduation from the University of Connecticut,  June 1938.

 Although my mother had a job, she also spent many hours on activities in the Ukrainian community, she danced with the Ukrainian Folk Ballet of the Twin Cities, was active in her church, and spent many hours educating people about Ukrainian culture.  Every spring, she demonstrated the making of Ukrainian Easter eggs all over the Twin Cities.   From all the pictures of her in the ST Paul and Minneapolis newspapers, it is amazing that she had time to sleep.

With the Great Depression barely over, and World War 2 going on, most young people did not have much money to spend on entertainment.  They got together in groups to go dancing and ice skating and other inexpensive activities. My Dad, being a graduate student, had very little money to spend on anything.  

From what my mother told me, it was an on and off romance.  My Dad was a smoker, which to my mother was unacceptable.  They broke up for quite a while, and when they got back together, he had quit smoking.  They both liked to dance, and they sometimes took a streetcar to a dance hall, and spent the evening dancing, or went to see a movie with friends.

They were engaged in 1943, and married in April 1944.  The wedding was at St Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Minneapolis; founded by a group of Ukrainian immigrants, led by my great-grandfather, Sylvester Rychly.

Pauline Haydak and Mykola Haydak, married in 1943. Julie's mother and step-father.

The wedding dinner was held in the Hall, which was in the basement of the church. It was a family affair, there wasn’t much money to spend on the wedding.  Walter, my mother’s brother, bought the wedding gown.  John and Anna Romanchuk, my mother’s  uncle and aunt, had a farm, and they provided the meat for the dinner.  My mother’s other Aunts cooked and served the dinner. Her uncles kept the bar going.  A group from the University provided the music.  A long-time family friend, Mrs. Irene Granovsky, decorated the hall and tables with apple blossoms. My mother said that the hall was totally transformed, and looked very beautiful. It is too bad that except for the formal portraits, there are no pictures. My mother’s brother, Walter planned to take pictures, but he got too busy collecting money to help bring his brother, Joe, serving in the US Army, home for a leave.

Peter and Julie's 50th Anniversary Party, Evanston IL 1994.

Peter and Julia celebrated were happily married for 61 years. After he received his PhD., they moved to the Chicago suburbs and raised three children. They celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 1994, and their 60th anniversary in 2004. Peter passed away in 2005, Julie in 2007. 
Ukrainian people offer the same wish for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries:  “God grant you many years…health, wealth and happiness!”   It certainly was true for Peter and Julia.

The Noznick Family, 1966.  Julia, Peter W., Peter P., Andrew and Pauline

Friday, April 18, 2014

Katherine's Story: Velykden, Easter in Ukraine 100 years ago.

Woodcut by Jaques Hnivdovsky.  Easter celebrations in Galicia.  Baking the paska, cutting the pussy willow, Passion Thursday, blessing of the Easter baskets, the Hahilky dances, and ending with wet Monday.

Easter was the most important holiday in Ukraine, when my great Aunt, Katherine Rychly lived there, 100 years ago, in the village of Bila, just outside the city of Ternopil'. They called it Velykden, which means big holiday.  It is important today, both in Ukraine and wherever Ukrainians live in the world.  

Old Easter card

Easter was a week long holiday, beginning on Holy Thursday and ending on the Tuesday after Easter. Spring had arrived in Galicia an eastern province of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and everybody was excited about the warm sunshine and new growth.  My great Aunt Katherine Rychly said that everybody in the family got new clothing for Easter, blouses were made by a seamstress in the village, for all the women. Their Easter clothing included a white apron, an important part of their outfit. All the girls had their hair done, braided and decorated with ribbons. On Easter Day, the Church bells rang all day long and Everyone in the village went to Church for services, then home for a big holiday meal.  After dinner, the family returned to the church for Hahilky, songs and dances, performed by the girls of the village, on the grass outside.

Katherine does not mention in her memoir that the holiday continued all week.  Easter Monday was also called “wet Monday” because the boys and girls spent the day dousing each other with buckets of water.  This practice takes place in Poland as well.   Provody ended Easter week in Galicia with visits to the cemetery. Finally, after almost ten days of celebration, the villagers returned to their every day lives.  It is no wonder that Easter was called Velykden—the great day.

 Great Lent--The forty days leading up to Easter and " Pussy Willow Sunday"

The Easter season began with Lent.  It began on Ash Wednesday and lasted 40 days.  No meat was eaten and no dancing was allowed.   In Ukraine, Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter was called  Willow Sunday. Pussy willow branches were used in place of palms, which didn’t grow in Ukraine. The willow is an important tree to Ukrainians, and it was one of the first plants to show growth in the spring. The week before Easter was sometimes called Willow Week.  On Willow Sunday, the branches were blessed by the priest, and the villagers tapped each other on the shoulder and repeated the wish:  “Be as tall as the willow, as healthy as the water, as rich as the earth.”  Some farmers used the willow branches to drive their cattle to pasture for the first time in spring, and then stuck  the branch in the ground for luck.  After church, families took the pussy willow branches home to decorate their houses, placing them behind the icons and the cross. 
"Maundy Thursday", painting by Mykola Pymenenko.  Churchgoers left the services with lit candles on "Passion Thursday."

The next four days were very busy. All preparations had to be completed by Maundy Thursday, because no work could be done between Thursday and Easter Tuesday. The house was cleaned and whitewashed.  Easter foods were prepared, the Easter breads, the Paska and the babki were baked and Easter eggs were made.  Two types of Easter eggs were decorated—the pysanky, elaborately painted raw eggs, which were often given as gifts, and used in the Easter basket,  and the krashanky, hard boiled eggs, dyed various colors using vegetable materials.  The most popular color was red, obtained by boiling the eggs along with onion skins, until they took on a reddish brown color. Krashanky were included in the Easter basket and eaten with the Easter meal. 

The next four days were strict fast days, no meat or dairy could be eaten. The first service of the Easter observance was conducted on Maundy or Passion Thursday.  Large passion candles were lit during the service, and the people carried the lit candles home. 
On Good Friday, a “Tomb” was set up in the Church.  A visit to the “Tomb” was made on Saturday, before the Easter baskets were blessed.   

The Blessing of the Easter Baskets

Painting by Olena Kulchytska, "Christ Has Risen" , 1930

Every family put together an Easter basket, which contained very specific items.  The Easter Babka was the most important, and pysanky and krashanky (at least one red one) were always included.  the willow basket was lined with either an embroidered or white linen napkin. It contained a sausage, a piece of Easter ham, an Easter Babka, salt, butter, cheese and horseradish, which was called Hrin, and a beeswax candle.  An embroidered towel covered the food in the basket and pussy willow branchhes decorated the handle.   The baskets were brought to the church for blessing on the day before Easter. The people lined up, with their baskets in front of them. The priest walked "down the line" blessing baskets as he walked. The villagers were required to pay the priest for blessing their Easter basket with Easter bread if they didn't have cash.  He received so much bread that day that he used it to feed his farm animals.  This practice upset the villagers,  children were hungry and the Priest used the special Easter bread to feed his animals!

Easter Day--Velykden

Bonfires were set and burned on the Saturday night before Easter.    In some areas, the Easter basket was brought to the midnight service on Saturday.  A vigil was sometimes held outside the church, sometimes inside.    In some churches, the doors were opened as the sun rose greeting the worshipers with light.  On Easter morning, the faithful greeted each other with the saying “Christ is risen!”  They were answered with “He is risen indeed.”  They would embrace and kiss three times.  The family returned home with their Easter basket full of food and enjoyed the Easter meal.
"Easter Vigil" painting by Mykola Pymenenko


The Vesnianky-Hahilky celebration took place in front of the church during the afternoon of Easter Sunday.  The origin of these songs and dances were very ancient: before the Ukrainians became Christian in the 10th century, the purpose of these celebrations was to chase away winter and welcome spring.  The people asked the forces of nature to give them a bountiful harvest and a happy life.    The Vesnianky-Hahilky specifically Galician customs, and were not performed in other areas of Ukraine.  Only young unmarried women took part  dancing round dances, without partners.  As time passed, the ancient reasons  for the dances were forgotten, and the Hahilky were performed for entertainment.  By the turn of the last century, courtship became a reason for the hahilky; my grandmother told me that a pretty young girl was often noticed on Easter Sunday, and engaged soon after.    During the years of the Soviet Union, the hahilky disappeared in Ukraine, but are now performed in Ukrainian communities in Europe and North and South America.
"Hahilky" painting by Ivan Trush, 1905

 The Rest of Easter Week

Wet Monday followed Easter Sunday.  The boys sprinkled—or doused the girls with water. The Rychly family ate vareneky (pirogi) on Easter Monday, using the leftover cheese from the Easter dinner. The Friday and Saturday after Easter was called Provodny in Galicia, a day to remember departed family members.  The family went to the cemetery with a picnic, and left some food and Easter eggs at the graves. 

The Easter season ended with “Green Sunday” or Pentecost, 40 days after Easter.

Paskas, babkas and  the Easter Basket.

Krashanky, hard boiled eggs, colored with onion skins.

Martha Stuart's Recipe for Ukrainian Easter Paska  Click on the link for the recipe

Special instructions for making the Paska--in addition to the recipe above
  • When preparing paska dough and during the kneading, think only good thoughts, shoo away all evil ones.
  • Don't let any of your neighbors or any strangers come in the house when you are preparing the paska.  It will not rise as it should.  Don't make any sudden noises while the paska is rising or while it is in the over baking.  Don't sit down while the paska is baking or it will become flat. 
  • If you carefully follow all of the instructions, the paska will be light, airy and tasty. If not, it will come out hard and dense.
 Source:  The Ukrainian Museum, New York
Other sources:  
Ukrainian Easter at BRAMA,
Encyclopedia of Ukraine, encyclopedia of
 Lawryk, Julia, Kateryna, Autobiography by Katherine Pylatuik Lymar as told to her Daughter, Julie in 1988.
Ukrainian Museum of Art, Kiev, Ukraine
Lviv Museum of Ukrainian Art, Lviv, Ukraine

Friday, April 11, 2014

Passover in Eastern Europe

Passover was one of the most important holidays of the year for Eastern European Jews. It commemorates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt over three thousand years ago.  Today Passover continues commemorate the liberation of the Jews from Egypt, but also celebrates the freedom of all people from oppression.

It is a spring holiday, and is one of the most ancient religious festivals of the Jewish people.  It takes place during the first month of the Jewish calendar, on the fifteenth of Nisan and lasts eight days.  Passover, or Pesach, was one of the three harvest festivals, which included Shavuot ( commemorates God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses)  and Sukkot, and required that all adult Israelite men bring offerings to the temple in Jerusalem to thank God for the bounty of the land. 

Passover is described in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Originally, it was required that an unblemished lamb or goat be offered as a sacrifice, and eaten with unleavened bread (matzo) and bitter herbs (maror) at a special Seder.  After the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, blood sacrifices were no longer performed and what was left of the ancient ceremonies live on in the Passover Seder, and as symbolic foods on the Seder plate.

Getting Ready for Passover

In the countries of Eastern Europe, preparations for Passover began months before the actually holiday.  After the holiday of Purim, serious preparations began.  This involved whitewashing the house, painting the interior rooms, meticulous cleaning of the entire house and all the utensils used for cooking. If a family was not able to afford the special dishes, cooking utensils and wine cups, which were used only during Passover, they could immerse the dishes,utensils and silverware they had in boiling water, and make them kosher for Passover.   I remember my father-in-law telling me about how this was done when he was a child in Chicago,100 years ago.  New clothing was purchased for the family, and special foods were prepared.  Charity collections were made to provide Passover foods for the poor. Read more about making the home Kosher for Passover


Matzo, "the bread of affliction", and reminds Jews of the servitude they experienced in Egypt. It is unleavened bread,  made from flour and water and is one of the most important foods consumed during Passover.  It is a reminder of the escape the Jewish people made from Egypt, when there was no time to properly prepare bread. The ingredients are quickly mixed together, so no rising can occur, it is baked quickly, so it can't puff up or rise.  The whole process from mixing the ingredients to baking the matzo takes less than 20 minutes.

Matzo was baked during the week before Passover.  The matzo that was used for the Seder meal was made by hand and was rolled out like pie crust. Since Jews were required to eat only matzo for the entire eight day holiday, the invention in 1838, of a machine that made matzo was welcomed and its use spread quickly over Europe.   In Eastern Europe, the matzo making machine was controversial, and Rabbis spent years discussing whether the machine could be cleaned thoroughly enough to make matzo according to the requirements for Passover. In the 1850's in Galicia, one Rabbi allowed the use of the machine, and another did not.  However, most of the Eastern Jewish communities accepted the use of the matzo making machine.

Homemade Matzo

The final Passover preparation, the search for hametz  (crumbs of leavened bread), took place on the evening of the fourteenth of Nisan before the Passover began.  The children and their father carefully searched the house looking for any crumbs of that might have been missed during the house cleaning.  A few crumbs were always hidden, so the children could find them. When found, they were carefully swept into a small bag, carried outside the house and burned the next morning, along with any remaining leavened products,  Now the house could be declared hametz free and ready for Passover.

The Seder

Title Page from a Passover Haggadah, illustrated by Saul Raskin, 1941.

Passover is a holiday celebrated in the home with family.  The ceremonial meal, the Seder requires that all family members take part, including the children.  The table is set using sets of dishes, glassware and cutlery that are used only for Passover. At sunset, according to Jewish custom, the first day of Passover begins. (the fifteenth day of Nisan begins at sunset.) The candles were lit and blessed by the mother, and the Seder began. 

Blessing over the Passover candles.  Hebrew is read from right to left so the blessing starts in the upper right hand corner.

Seder means order.  The ceremony is written out in a special  book, called a Haggadah, which contains the entire service. The fourteen parts recount the escape of the Jewish people from Egypt, starting with the blessing and ending with the words “Next year in Jerusalem.”

The father or eldest man in the family conducted the Seder.  A plate placed on the table, contained the symbolic foods, another plate which held three pieces of matzo, under a decorated cover, and a bottle of red wine, were necessary for the Seder. A cup of wine was poured for the prophet Elijah, who is considered a protector of Jews.  The youngest child in the family asked the four questions, which began with "Why is this night different from other nights?" As the four questions were answered by family members, the story of the Exodus from Egypt was told and the contents of the Seder plate are explained. 

The Seder Plate, cups of wine and Matzo

The Seder Plate

  • Karpas:   A green vegetable, usually parsley.   Karpas symbolizes in success of the Israelites during their first years in Egypt. It also symbolizes spring. The karpas is dipped in the salt water so the Seder participants could taste both the hope of new birth and the tears of the Israelite slaves in Egypt.  In Eastern Europe, parsley often was not available at Passover, so a potato was used for the karpas.
  • Haroset: A mix of fruit--in Eastern Europe apples were used, wine or honey and nuts.  Haroset symbolizes the mortar used by the Israelites when they built the pyramids.
  • Maror: A bitter herb that represents the bitterness of slavery.  Horseradish is used for maror.  Maror is dipped into the haroset to represent the bitterness of slavery and the work associated with this bitterness.
  • Hazeret:  A second bitter herb, usually a bitter lettece.  A "sandwich" is made from matzo, maror and hazeret.
  • Z'roa:  A roasted lamb bone that stands for the lamb that Jews sacrificed at the Passover offering when the Temple stood in Jerusalem.  It is a reminder of the sacrifice that the Jews offered just before they left Egypt.
  • Beitzaha roasted egg, which symbolized the sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem.  It also represents the cycle of life, that even during the worst of times, there is always hope for a new beginning.
Four cups of wine are used in the Seder.  Wine symbolizes joy, and is used to sanctify the Sabbath and all Jewish holidays. Each cup of wine represents a promise made by God to the Jewish people.  
  1. "I will free you form the labors of the Egyptians
  2. and deliver you from their bondage
  3. I will redeem you with an outreached arm and through extraordinary chastisements.
  4. And I will take you to be my people and I will be your God" Exodus 6: 6-7
  After the final cup of wine was consumed, and the special psalms were recited, the family ate the festive meal. At the end of the Seder, the door of the house is opened to welcome the prophet Elijah, who will usher in the age of the Messiah, according to Jewish tradition.

Passover table, with the Seder plate, covered matzo plate and wine.


The Eight Days of Passover

How were the rest of the eight days of Passover spent?  The first two days are major holidays, and days of complete rest, and no work was permitted on these days. On the second day of Passover, another Seder was conducted. The last two days were also major holidays, and no work is allowed on these days.  The intermediate days are called Chol HaMoed, or the festival of weekdays.  It was a time for fun and relaxation, and no heavy work could be done on these days.  People would take family outings, bringing picnic meals of foods which were allowed for Passover. 
The seventh day of Passover commemorates the arrival of the Jewish people at the Red Sea and the parting of the waters that allowed them to cross. It was a major holiday with special prayers and a service.  A festive meal was served on this day.

Although this is a modern poster, it gives the idea of how the days Chol Haoed are to be observed.

Passover, Christianity and Easter 

DaVinci's Last Supper
Passover and Easter are related. Many Jewish Passover practices took on new meanings in Christianity.  Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter has roots in Passover, since the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, say that Jesus was celebrating a Passover Seder on that night. Many Christian churches conduct a Seder on that day. However, Passover is not the Jewish version of Easter. According to Rabbi Bruce Kadden, in his essay, "A Christian's Guide to Passover", "...for Jews "Passover represents the redemption from slavery and the deliverance to freedom, for Christians, Easter represents the ultimate redemption of humankind through the life and death of Jesus."

There is a darker relationship as well.  In Medieval Europe, it was believed that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make the matzo, which resulted in harassment and violence toward Jews. This belief continued long past the middle ages in Eastern Europe and was called "the blood libel".  In Russia, pogroms often occurred during Passover.  
Passover was celebrated, secretly and often with great difficulty during the Holocaust, and the Warsaw Ghetto upraising in 1943 began on the eve of Passover.

Passover Seder in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Friday, April 4, 2014

It' s Spring, so it must be Ukrainian Easter Egg Time!

It's Ukrainian Easter Egg time again!  Every year during the weeks before Easter, Ukrainian Easter eggs make their annual appearance.  For me, they are always around, because I was lucky  enough to inherit a collection from my mother and grandmother.  They painted--or wrote, Easter eggs. The name for Easter eggs in Ukrainian is pysanky, which means written.  They eggs aren't painted, they are dyed using a process called batik.  In this process, an area of fabric is covered with wax, then dipped in the dye.  If a second color is desired, another area is covered with the wax, and then dipped into a different color dye.  To remove the wax from the fabric, it is ironed between two pieces of fabric, and the wax is melted off.

Kistka, the tool for writing on Easter Eggs. Source: Yevshan

 An egg in process--the lines are drawn in wax and the egg has been dyed once. The lines that are black, will be white on the finished egg.

When  this process is used in making an Easter egg, a raw egg is used.  Melted beeswax  is applied to the egg using a kistka, a tool that is made from a wooden dowel, split on one end.  A very small copper funnel is inserted into the split, and fastened with copper wire.  To decorate  the egg, the funnel is filled with beeswax, heated by a candle, and then used to apply the wax to the egg.  This is very hard to do well.  The wax hardens inside the funnel, or the wax flows too easily and then comes out in blobs, instead of fine lines.  In other words, making a presentable Ukrainian Easter egg is difficult.  I should know, since I  painted eggs when I was young.  My eggs were horrible, and never improved.  Fortunately there are no examples of the eggs I made in existence, but, there are beautiful eggs in my collection, which I will share with my readers.

This egg was painted by my grandmother, Pauline Haydak in 1979.  She rarely signed her eggs.

Font view of the egg above.

My mother and grandmother and most of my female relatives spent hours painting eggs that were sold in the annual egg sales held at their church.  They also demonstrated egg making in public libraries, departments stores,  community centers and folk festivals in the Minneapolis-St Paul area.  They shared information about Ukrainian history and culture, because in those days, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union and egg painting was not allowed there.

My mother, Julia Koshuba and Marie Hoca demonstrating egg painting, April, 1938. Source: St Paul Pioneer Press.

Some eggs from my collection:

A modern take combining embroidery and egg painting.

This is a trypellian style egg, the pattern comes from ancient Ukrainian pottery.

I love the geometric designs on this egg.

A very beautiful and complex egg painted by my mother, Julia Koshuba Noznick.

Want to learn more about painting Ukrainian Easter eggs? Watch this UTube video