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My great-grandparents came to Canada from the Ukraine in the early 1900’s in a great wave of immigration with thousands of others seeking a new life with new opportunity.
At that time, Russia owned approximately 80% of the land in the Ukraine, and the people found oppression with little freedom to speak their own language and little opportunity to rise above peasantry.

Most of my ancestors are from the United Kingdom, but since I was a child, my Ukrainian roots have fascinated me because of something more vibrant.

This is the only photo that I have of my great-grandmother. Even my father doesn’t know her name as she passed away when he was a toddler in the late 1940’s. Her last name was Kalynuick when she arrived, but my Gido (great grandfather) changed it to Kelly. This is about all I know of her. She had four daughters, born in Toronto, Canada, only two of whom I met. My Baba (grandmother) never spoke of her, my estranged great-aunt did nothing but praise her mother as I visited her in a nursing home in the last years of her life. Aunt Katy gave me this photo, the only one she had.

I look at her, and I wish I could sit at her feet and hear her stories of travel, of love, of loss….all I thought I had is this photo.....until I realized that the food that she taught my Baba to cook is part of her. Her traditions came with her. The petaheh (perogies), the holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and borscht. The foods that we ate at Christmas dinner instead of turkey. The trips with my Baba to her friend’s house to make psanky (decorated Easter eggs). A part of her has been kept alive through this food, her traditions, and this is what I can pass on to my own children.

I will keep searching for information. I am not very close to my father’s side of the family, so I don’t know how far I will get. But I want to keep part of her alive, with stories I can share as my daughter and I roll out the dough and boil the potatoes…

Baba’s Perogies

5 cups flour
2 cups lukewarm water
5 cups potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks and boiled until soft
¾ of 500mL container of cottage cheese
salt & pepper, to taste

Measure 5 cups of flour into large bowl. Add 2 Cups lukewarm water and stir to mix, forming soft dough. Transfer to counter covered lightly with flour. Knead briefly, adding more flour as necessary to make soft dough that is not too sticky. Set aside to rest while you make the filling.

To make the filling, peel and and cut up the potatoes into chunks. Boil and drain. Mash the potatoes, and while still hot add the cottage cheese, salt & pepper to taste.

When the filling is ready, roll out to ¼ inch thick and cut out circles with round cutter (I use a glass) that is approximately 3 inches round. Stretch the dough out a little to make a pocket for the filling. Add about one tablespoon of the potato and cheese filling into the center, and pinch dough together to make a seam around the filling (it helps to put a little flour on your fingers first). Set aside until ready to boil. Put a dusting of flour on the counter top or on a large towel where the uncooked perogies will be until they are going to be boiled. Do NOT let them touch or they will stick together and it will rip the dough (I have learned the hard way…)
When all of the perogies have been made, they can either be frozen on a cookie sheet to be cooked later, or can be boiled all at the same time for a big meal of perogies.
To cook, fill a dutch oven ¾ full of water and place over high heat until boiling. Turn heat to medium-high and add some salt (if desired) into boiling water. Add 5-8 perogies at a time into boiling water. When the perogies are cooked, they will begin to float.

We cut up an onion and cook it slowly in oil in a cast-iron pan, until golden brown. They are delicious and sweet over the perogies. Our family is divided on toppings. Half of us are all about ketchup on them, and my dad thinks we are crazy and won’t add anything but onions and sour cream.
If there are any leftovers, they are absolutely delicious when you reheat them in a frying pan with some butter or oil.

Making these has been trial & error for me. I LOVE to cook and try new recipes, but I am no cookbook author, so I hope these instructions are okay!!! You can never have enough flour around to make sure they don’t stick to things, because a perogie that opens up when you are cooking it is just way too disappointing! Play with the ingredients- you may want more cottage cheese, and my Baba used to add crumbled up bacon sometimes to the mixture. Enjoy.

Coming soon: borscht and holubtsi (cabbage rolls)



michellee's picture

Darcey, That's so great that


That's so great that you're sharing your great-grandmother's traditions with your daughter. Food is definitely an important part of who we are. My grandfather came to the US with his family from Slovakia, and we also eat perohi for Christmas. I have never made it though, it seems difficult!


World Pulse Technology Associate

Darcey's picture

you should try!

Thanks Michelle!
It is rather time consuming, but now that I have made it a few times, it is a lot less intimidating. It just takes a little practice, but worth it. I was looking up the word, and my Baba called it petaheh, all soft vowels, and I didn't find that anywhere, so I am not sure where that came from...
thanks again- nice to hear from you!

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
— John Lennon

LauraB's picture


I wanted to say hi and ask about reading Bhutto book- and your journal entry is fascinating to me. I have recently been struck by the wisdom and depth of knowing my ancestors. I'll have the great fortune of traveling to Ireland and Scotland in a few weeks to stand on the soil where they are from 4 generations ago. As I call upon them, mystery erupts in awe inspiring ways. I wonder how you are experiencing calling upon your ancestors?

I loved your post- happy cooking.
Warm wishes,

Darcey's picture


Hi Laura,
I LOVE your comments, they are always so great.
That is a great question....and I really don't know how to answer it. First, I am so happy for you to be travelling to the place where your ancestors are from, standing where they stood. To me, there is such power in that. I have such a connection to my faith, but seek such a connection to my earthly roots, and this grandmother has been the one that I have looked to. Maybe because there is so little known about her (and I considered being an archaeologist, so I love to dig for knowledge and seek out subtleties...)
I am not even sure where she is from. When I read about Ukrainian immigrants to Canada in the late 1800's & early 1900's, most documents say that they are from Kiev and the western part of the country. I once asked a woman at a cultural festival if dress is regional, since she is obviously wearing something very traditional, and she said that it was. I had misplaced the photo at that time, and now have misplaced her e-mail. So, I will see what I can find out.
Because I am aware of the food, some of the culture, and language to me it has become about something more personal. Not where she is from, but WHO she was and I don't know that those answers will come...
thanks again, I will write you about the Bhutto book...


"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
— John Lennon

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