We spend so much of our time looking inside the physical space of churches; we never take the time to look at what goes on beneath. Through the church hall doors, we could hear the pulsating, joyous beat of an Eastern European rhythm that led us down into a world beyond our own and yet so familiar.
Ukrainian ‘Babas’ are grandmothers to the community. And included in their community is anyone they meet. Coming into their presence we were met with warmth and love.
Most grandmothers are eager to share their stories and traditions, and the Babas are no different. Anxiously pulling us over to the table, we were immediately put to work in learning the fine art of crafting ceremonial bread. Taken under their wings, we kneaded and rolled, braided and decorated the Pascha bread. Not written on the ingredient list was the huge dose of laughter and joy that goes into every loaf.
Food is the backbone of Ukrainian life. Sustaining and celebratory, you can taste the pride in every hand crafted cabbage roll and pillowy perogy. You are called upon to eat heartily and eat some more – so as to physically ingest the love that is put into every bite.
Then, you dance!
Life does leave its mark on the faces of the Babas. There have been hardships. There have been trials. But, at the end of the day, there is always celebration, joy, community and a respect for tradition. Pulled out of our seats, we were swept up into lively dancing and laughter.
Whatever your religious or cultural affiliation, you walk away with a sense that these Babas are the true church – loving, sharing, caring and forgiving. They hug you with their warmth and regret your having to leave. But when you leave, you do so with the knowledge that you have left friends behind.
When and if we go back, we know the bread will be ready for us to braid and that a large plate of love and kinship will be set before us, with the inevitable smile and exclamation of “eat” whispered in our ear.
Blog post by Pat Hudson & Phaedra Charlton-Huskins,
Participants on the Nova Scotia Best Practices Mission to Manitoba, February 2010