A year in Dnepropetrovsk

An American volunteer in Ukraine

Archive for vodka

Defender of the Fatherland Day

February 23 was a Soviet memorial holiday celebrating those soldiers who fell in World War II defending Russia against the Germans. Today it has become a sort of Men’s Day (to compliment Women’s Day, which takes place on March 8). Although many Ukrainians don’t celebrate this holiday, our office takes it very seriously and prepares an entire spectacle and feast for the men. The women transformed the office into a Ukrainian kolkhoz (a collective farm during Soviet times, basically a Soviet kibbutz).

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Packing list for Hillel Shabbaton in Lecnoy

  • coat
  • scarf
  • hat
  • gloves (it’s cold out!!)
  • my badass American snowboots (I’m the only woman in all of Dnepropetrovsk who owns a pair of shoes this ugly, but it’s worth it! This morning, women in skirts and high, high stiletto heels were slipping and sliding in the snow, while I was able to run and jump comfortably through it)
  • jeans
  • 2 long sleeve shirts (although really, I’d only need one. It’s very common to wear the same outfit for many days in a row here. People don’t have that many clothes here, so they wear their Sunday best every day of the week, and if that means that they wear the same two outfits again and again, so be it)
  • sweatshirt (normally, I couldn’t wear something so informal, but this is a group of university kids drinking together in the woods. I think it’ll be fine)
  • 2 pairs of leggings
  • sports bra
  • long sleeve t-shirt (I plan on going jogging. Through the woods. In the snow. I’ll be the only one, and I’ll probably do it hung over, but I don’t care. There’s only one day a week when I’m not working during daylight hours, and therefore can jog, and I’m not giving up my Saturday run just because I’m in Lecnoy!)
  • toiletries
  • Anna Karenina
  • 2 bottles of vodka (for serious)
  • 1 carton of juice (chaser)

Rosh Hashana

Friday, September 26

3 days until erev Rosh Hashana

Since the entire Joint office would have Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off, and since not everyone works on Sunday, the office Rosh Hashana celebration was set for the Friday before the holiday. Someone had heard Sharon talk about making sushi for her family, and soon all the women were asking her to teach them (there are quite a few sushi restaurants in the city, but at least in the office, only Lena really goes to any of them. Many people had never tried Japanese food, in fact). Well, one thing led to another, and Friday’s Rosh Hashana lunch was a homemade sushi feast! We all helped prepare, rolling the maki, preparing the sumka (a type of salmon, I don’t know what it’s called in English), setting up the ginger and wasabi, making a platter of all the Rosh Hashana foods– apples, honey, pomegranate, and challah (the sushi was the fish)– and of course, since this is Ukraine after all, setting up platters of pickles, pickled mushrooms, and olives.

It was a wonderful lunch! Everyone had filled out small cards for at least five other staff members, and we all exchanged these. Drinks were poured, and toasts were made. Wine abounded. Everyone was in good spirits, and lunch lasted quite a few hours (as meals here tend to do). Read the rest of this entry »