The group is preparing for their annual Easter Tea and Bake Sale fundraiser with a flurry of baking and their 60th anniversary as a cultural league is just a couple months away.
At the bake sale there will also be perogies, cabbage rolls, borscht and more. The bake sale is from 1p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 at the St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Hall on 14th Street West.
Meanwhile, some members wonder if the league will be around to bake the traditional bread ten years from now.
”I’m hoping that it does,” said Olga Thoms, president of the league.
“Its part of who we are, you don’t want to think that in 20 or 30 years time so much of it has died out,” said membership co-ordinator, Monica Bayda.
The league belongs to St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.
While the age of their 60-plus league members varies from 41 to 92-years-of-age, the vast majority are over the age of 70, said Bayda.
Nor do all of those members know how to make the traditional Easter food.
Thoms talks about those foods with gusto.
The food is steeped in symbolism, she explains, which is tied deeply to Christianity and the Catholic faith. Many of the symbols come from an even older time as pre-Christian pagan symbols.
Symbols that are commonly used are the cross, the holy trinity, Christ’s crown-of-thorns, wheat, circles, flowers and doves.
One of the important traditional foods is Paska bread.
“The Paska is a large, round braided bread. The word Paska means Passover, for Christ, by his resurrection passed over from death to life,” Thoms said.
There is also babka; a tall, yellow sweet bread made with raisins, butter and eggs.
“It symbolizes the richness of eternal life,” she said.
Then there are the butter lambs. The lambs are literally carved out of butter and adorned with peppercorn eyes and coffee bean hoofs.
“It symbolizes the body of Christ, which was anointed with spices and aloes for burial,” she explains.
These foods are savoured in Ukrainian communities around the country ad the world.
“I find less and less people are doing it. I don’t know why … I think the young people are just too busy,” said Thoms.
“It’s a different world. Your mothers, your grandmothers were farming. So that was part of the life on the farm. They didn’t have television,” Bayda reflected.
Although, Thoms says, some women do join the league after they retire and have the time to explore the culture, which is supporting the community greatly.
The league works to promote Ukrainian culture and is very inclusive of those with an interest who are not of Ukrainian heritage. Bayda herself is full-blooded Irish, accent and all.
One way they encourage their culture is by supporting young people who wish to learn about the culture through exchanges to Ukraine, and language immersion.
Olive Missouri is skilled in the art of making Paska bread.
She has been part of the league for 48 years and with the parish since she moved to Prince Albert 52 years ago in 1961.
“I’ve been at it a long time. My mother used to do it and I learned it from my mother,” Missouri said.
Her mother was Canadian born but passed those traditions on to her daughter.
The passing on of specific designs on top of the Paska, from mother to daughter, is another tradition that Missouri carries on.
“My girls will not carry the traditions on … so that will die off eventually -- in my family,” Adamko said. -
“This is triple braided … like you braid girls hair. That’s what my mother did,” she said.
That is pattern she prefers to use.
Helen Adamko is not of Ukrainian heritage but married into the parish and the community. She has been the parish for 53 years and a part of the league for 17 years.
“I learned from the women here actually … it wasn’t that hard,” Adamko said and smiled.
Adamko was interested in the traditions because they were so different from what she knew growing up. So interested in fact that she was the president of the league for five years.
She especially enjoys making the Khrustyky (sweet nothings), pastry.
“My girls will not carry the traditions on … so that will die off eventually -- in my family,” Adamko said.
Missouri says that some of the traditions may carry on, as she has helped teach another, younger member of the league, who is now teaching the children.
After seeing some of their work, Missouri affirmed that some were taking to it.
“Some learned, some didn’t,” she said.
Missouri hopes that more young people will take to these traditions and will pursue them as adults.
“I think it’s valuable to continue. That’s why I’m here. I want for somebody to carry it on.”
The 60th anniversary of the ladies league will be held on June 9, with an honoured liturgy and their will also be in attendance.