Savella Stechishin and the Joy of Ukranian Cooking

Savella Stechishin: 1903-2002

It is with deep sadness and fond memories that we announce the passing of Savella Stechishin on April 22, 2002 in Saskatoon, SK at the age of 98.

The history of Ukrainian women in Canada was personified in Savella Stechishin who for three-quarters of a century was a forerunner, a woman ahead of her time, a perennial mover and shaker. An immigrant to Canada in 1913, she became an active advocate of women’s rights, an ethnic leader, journalist, author, teacher, home economist and community organizer who dedicated her life to bringing women of Ukrainian descent, together with their cultural heritage, into mainstream society. This was at a time when only men were leaders. She could be described as an ethno-cultural social maternal feminist.

Savella Stechishin was born in Western Ukraine on August 19, 1903 and came to Canada at the age of nine. Her family settled on a homestead in Krydor, Saskatchewan, where she lived until 1918.

In the 1920s she went against the prevailing view that a married womans place was to be in the home, not to pursue a higher education. She was married at the age of 17 while in grade 10 and had her first child when she was 18. However, by the time she was 26, she had completed high school and teachers college and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan.

She was the first Ukrainian Canadian woman to graduate from the University of Saskatchewan (1930), and the first Ukrainian woman in Canada to graduate with a specialization in Home Economics.

During the time she was studying and raising a family, she also served as Dean of Women at Petro Mohyla Institute alongside her husband, who was the Rector. Her determination to preserve Ukrainian culture in Canada led to founding and heading a young Ukrainian women students group, Mohylianky, at the institute at the age of 20. She was responsible for organizing evening courses in many aspects of Ukrainian culture. Public speaking sessions and debates were held to help these young women learn to express themselves and develop their self-esteem. All these activities were stimulating for the teacher trainee residents.

Seeing the difficulties Ukrainian pioneers had integrating into their new lives in Canada, she was the initiator in 1926, of the first Ukrainian national womens non-denominational organization, Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada. Under her leadership with many former Mohylianky on board, the organization took root and branches quickly mushroomed throughout Canada. The associations motto was: self-help, self-reliance, and self-respect. She encouraged the women to take advantage of the educational possibilities available to them in their new homeland. She inspired them to take pride in their rich cultural heritage at a time when multiculturalism was still unheard of in Canada, and prejudice and bigotry were rampant.

During this time, Savella Stechishin corresponded with leading women writers of various publications in Ukraine. She was inspired by them to continue her mission in Canada and, likewise, inspired the women in Ukraine by supporting them morally, financially (through the sales of their embroidered goods, books and almanacs), and educationally (eg home economics, life of Ukrainian Canadian women).

She was instrumental in laying the foundation for the Ukrainian Museum of Canada that later came under the auspices of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada. This museum, the only ethno-cultural museum in Canada to have branches, has its headquarters in Saskatoon, and branches in Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. This museum has preserved thousands of artifacts for future generations of Canadians to treasure and enjoy. The emphasis that she placed on retaining the traditional Ukrainian folk arts in Canada did much to raise them to the respected position that they now occupy among other heritage folk arts in our multicultural mosaic.

She started teaching in Saskatchewan country schools and later taught Home Economics in Saskatoon public schools. In addition, she instructed Ukrainian language courses at the Petro Mohyla Institute and was a sessional lecturer of Ukrainian language at the University of Saskatchewan.

After obtaining a BA degree in 1930 with a specialization in Home Economics, Savella Stechishin joined the Department of Women’s Services at the University of Saskatchewan in the 1930s and used her training to engage in outreach work for many years. As a Home Economist, she tried to improve the living conditions of Ukrainian immigrant settlers by instructing them in the importance of a healthy lifestyle and nutrition. Lessons about cooking and general homemaking practices were also stressed.

Savella Stechishin was the editor of the Women’s Page of the Ukrainian Voice, a widely-read Ukrainian language newspaper published in Winnipeg and contributed weekly columns for more than 25 years on a broad range of topics: nutrition, homemaking trends, immigrant issues, and the preservation of the Ukrainian language and culture in Canada. Through her informative and challenging newspaper columns, she assisted women in adjusting to the expectations of Canadian society, informed them of their rights as Canadian citizens and raised their awareness of the issues of the day.

She made significant contributions to Ukrainian women’s magazines, such as Our Life (USA), Promin (then located in Winnipeg) and Zhinocha Dolia (Ukraine).

During the Second World War, she served as a journalist on nutrition and health for the Wartime Services in Ottawa Consumer Information Service. Her columns were printed in various Ukrainian-language newspapers in Canada.

stechishin cookbookSavella Stechishin was also the author of four books, the best known of which is Traditional Ukrainian Cookery. This cookbook has already served three generations as a source of carefully researched information about Ukrainian cuisine, culture and traditions. Since its first publication in 1957, it has been reprinted 18 times and over 80,000 copies have been sold throughout the English-speaking world. It is considered to be the most authoritative book on Ukrainian cuisine and it is now being discovered in the newly independent Ukraine where younger generations are studying their Ukrainian heritage after years of Russification.

In 1950, she wrote a 133-page Ukrainian-language book entitled Cultural Treasures Ukrainian Embroidery that was based on her avid interest in Ukrainian folk arts and her determination to make them an integral part of Canadian culture.

In 1975, she published a Ukrainian-language book documenting the history of the first branch of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada: The Fifty-Year (1923-1973) Anniversary of the Ukrainian Women’s Association, Olha Kobylianska Branch in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Mrs Stechishin assisted her husband in writing a 500-page textbook Ukrainian Grammar (1951) which was used by English-speaking schools, colleges and universities throughout the world.

After the untimely death of her husband, she took it upon herself to assume responsibility for an ambitious project that he had started: to research and write a book entitled The History of Ukrainian Settlement in Canada. Undaunted by the magnitude of the task, she persevered and successfully completed the project. The original book was published in Ukrainian in 1971 and in 1992, it was published in English translation.

Her late husband, Julian Stechishin, was a lawyer, writer, author, scholar, lecturer, teacher and community activist. He was one of the original founders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada in 1918 in Saskatoon. Savella assisted him and, at her death, was the last remaining member of this original group.

The leadership role that Savella Stechishin played in all the organizations that she established or helped to establish involved much work and personal sacrifice. The types of demands that were made on her time and her energy were wide-ranging: formulating goals, organizing meetings and conferences, traveling throughout Saskatchewan, Canada, USA and Ukraine delivering speeches, contributing articles concerning women’s issues to various Ukrainian newspapers and periodicals, both in Canada and in Western Ukraine prior to its incorporation into the Soviet Union at the beginning of the Second World War. With a family comprising three children, she had to be very well organized and prepared to do a lot of juggling and improvising.

She passed on her love of her heritage to her children and grandchildren and to the countless women whose lives she touched.

She will be lovingly remembered by her daughter, Zenia of Toronto; son, Dr. Myron (Emily) of Edmonton; grandchildren, Danovia (Scott) Stefura of Toronto, Gordon Stechishin of Edmonton, John (Susan) Stetch/ Stechishin of New York City, Gregory (Jo-Ann Sturko) Stechishin of Edmonton, Andrea (Anton) Lakusta of Edmonton, and Dr. Mallory Stechishin-Kozoriz (Grant) of San Francisco; great-grandsons, Eliajah and Gabriel Stefura; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.

Savella Stechishin joins in peaceful eternity her husband, Julian; son, Anatole; parents, Trofym and Eva Wawryniuk; half brother, John; half sister, Mokryna Worobey; brothers, Thomas (Apolonari) Warnock, Eugene Warnick; sisters, Mary Charko-Nowosad, Helen Worobetz, Stephania Magus; daughters-in-law, Olha and Claudia.

Donations in Savellas memory may be made to St Andrews College (Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary), University of Manitoba, 29 Dysart Road, Winnipeg, MB, R3T 2M7, or any charity of ones choice.

Source: Savella Stechishin: 1903-2002

A Ukrainian Canadian Julia Child And More: Savella Stechishin

Where the Wild Things Are: Magick versus Magic

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, September, 11, 2003.

Magic versus magick. Where do you stand on the word?

Magick isn’t in the dictionary, so far. But I think it’s a good addition to the language. It shows a difference in magic as done by a magician versus magick as done by a Witch, Wiccan or Pagan type person. We aren’t doing card tricks to amuse kids at a birthday party. Our magick is not entertainment. As much as I appreciate and enjoy magic, I don’t want to see magick called magic.

Confused? Then let’s add to your confusion. What is a Witch compared to a Wiccan or a Traditional Witch?

In my opinion (notice the qualifier) a Wiccan is someone who follows the ideals set out by Gardener and friends in the last century. Traditional Witches are those who come from a family of Witches, thus they inherited the traditions. Meanwhile Witches are those who base their witchery on herbalists, wise women and men from ages ago and whatever else they can discover from the long ago past.

Does that help or do you want even more confusion to add to your confusion? Let’s just add the words eclectic and solitary to the mix. Can you be a solitary eclectic? Of course. Solitary just means you choose to be alone, not a member of a coven or some such group. Can you be solitary and a coven member? No, that kind of defeats the whole solitary thing. Anyone can be eclectic. There are so many ideals, traditions and so much history that it’s really hard to find someone who agrees with another person about everything. So, most of us could call ourselves eclectic. Does that mean you should? No, it’s too confusing. Find something to describe your style of Wicca or Witchery and stick with it. You don’t have to be a carbon copy of everyone else but you can make everything simpler to understand. Besides, in the end we are all part of the group of Pagans.

Confused?

Go find some answers. Don’t be shy.

Where the Wild Things Are: How do you Feel about Your Religion?

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, December, 8, 2003.

What would it feel like to live in your own skin if it was all new to you? I’m thinking about hearing the blood in your veins. Feeling your food being pushed along to digestion. Taking each breath rather than leaving it on auto-pilot. All those things we have grown so used to that we don’t even feel them when we try. How different would your body feel if you felt everything going on inside yourself? How would you feel about your body? It would be kind of creepy I think. Too much information about all those regular functions we take for granted.

I was reading a book, one of those historical fiction type things. It’s a different version of the story of Arthur and Guinevere. But, the book is turning into an advertisement for Christianity and the one true god. I hate it when that happens. First, it makes light of what people felt back then, how seriously they took their religion and the world they lived in. Secondly, it tries to make what I believe look foolish. The first part annoys me far more than the second.

You may be surprised. But, I don’t have to defend my beliefs, I know what they are. I’m not on a crusade to promote Witchery or Paganism in general. I can be quite happy if all the world isn’t Pagan. I’m willing to share but I’m not forcing anyone to see things my way. That’s why I don’t feel overly angry about the way my beliefs are treated in this book.

However, it’s wrong to have someone convert to Christianity for no real reason. In the book the main character is a Pict woman, Guinevere. She has a slave (a Briton taken in war) translate when the tribes meet to discuss a treaty. Anyway, the slave is Christian, a monk previously as it turns out. She decides to learn the language since she becomes betrothed to one of Arthur’s noblemen. During this time she is curious about the slave’s religion and asks him about his beliefs. That’s fine, I expect young people were curious about a lot of things, still are. But, I can’t see her converting to another religion for such flimsy reasons as are presented in this book. The reader is expected to believe she suddenly finds her own religion hollow and meaningless just because the slave talks to her about one god. She goes to a sacred place and gets no answer to her prayers to the gods. So she prays to the one god of the slave instead. There’s no answer there either but that’s not mentioned in the book.

She asks the slave a lot of questions, doubting the existence or sincerity of his god. But even though he has no real answers beyond having faith and believing she accepts that. How would a real person back then choose to accept that over what she has always known? What her family and tribe continue to believe. It’s like telling someone they have a third leg and expecting them to just believe it cause you said they should. It’s based on nothing but the word of one person. Whereas her own religion is all around her, her ancestors and the people of her tribe.

So what does any of this have to do with the beginning of this? It’s all about feeling your religion. I don’t think religion or beliefs are something you can take off as you change your clothes. They shouldn’t be something so light. You need to feel it all the time, in all kinds of ways and places. If you aren’t feeling something special then you need to reconsider and investigate other ways, other paths. Like your body, if you forget how to feel the blood in your veins you’re not really living fully. Maybe you’re taking too much for granted and should start fresh, with a new perspective.

Anyway, I’m not sure if I’ll finish the book. It’s getting bogged down in dogma for me.

Wish You Were Here

This comes from Kate Spade, a postcard on a bangle. I like the idea. Makes you want to travel. Where would you go if you really could go anywhere? If money, language, time. confidence or anything else was not getting in your way? I’d go to a fancy hotel in Moscow. I’d start there with some luxury while I worked out what I wanted to see next. I know I want to see Russian history, but I don’t know where to start. A great hotel would be just the right spot to while away a few weeks while I gather information on the whole plan.

Voter Apathy and Disinterest

It was the election tonight in Canada. The Conservatives have won. I gave them a vote. It must be about 20 years since I last voted. I just didn’t care enough to bother. Tonight they say only 58% of people across Canada voted. That doesn’t count a lot of people who have slipped through the cracks and were not even counted as being eligible to vote. My brother being one. I’ve been one in the past and didn’t care to do anything about it.

They are talking about voter apathy and trying to come up with reasons and fixes for this. I listen and no one is really getting to the real reason, at least for me. I am just not interested in listening to them nit pick and bash at each other like a bunch of spoiled, rude children. How can you take anyone who behaves that way seriously. I sure don’t see myself bothering to vote for them. If that is all the political parties have to offer, it’s just not enough. I’d vote for someone who could at least try to appear like an adult.

That is partly why I voted this time. My sister had talked about how much she wanted to see Conservatives get in. I listened but still wasn’t planning to vote. Then they came around to the house, which isn’t that new or unusual. Only the Conservatives actually did so. The others sent out the standard brochures bashing the other parties and sounding like a pack of whiny babies.

Then our candidate for this area showed up at our door one night, himself. That was nice! It was about a week before tonight, the big election. He must have been hugely busy. But, there he was, a personal appearance at our door. He did not talk politics, he just introduced himself and asked me if there were any issues I’d like to ask him about. I didn’t have anything in particular. But, geez, what a hard working guy to go door to door himself. I was impressed for the first time in a really long time.

Since then they phoned a few times. Really too many times as it was the holiday for us on Monday and we were busy enough. We had their sign on our front lawn. First time I have ever had an election sign at the house. Across the street the new neighbours had a Liberal sign up. Diagonally across the other neighbours had a Conservative sign up, bigger than our own.

Anyway, listening to the talk about voter apathy is making me think how silly it is to consider mandatory voting, where it is illegal not to vote. If this is a democracy people should be able to choose not to vote. It is sending their own message. It’s just a shame that the politicians are not really listening. I think most of them are so self involved they can not hear anything beyond their own nose. I wonder what people do in Australia where they have mandatory voting? I bet there are a ton of spoiled ballots. So, really, what has making voting mandatory done? Can someone from Australia comment about the mandatory voting and voter disinterest?

Happy Election to the USers. At least it is done for awhile again here. I kind of envy the US cause they only have elections every four years. Here they are called randomly. But the elections in the US seem to go on for about a year before they finally vote and shut up about it all. I’d really hate that. Do you just shut off the TV and radio and try to turn a blind eye to all the election stuff on billboards and everywhere? I was only in the US for part of one election. Glad I missed most of it.

What are elections like in other countries? How about in the UK? Do they backbite and bitch at each other too? I remember when they did not do that here. It started a little trickle when I was in my teens and has snowballed since then. I really do think that is the main cause of voter disinterest/ apathy. We just have no respect for someone who can’t behave any better than a tired and grumpy two year old.

At least in other countries you don’t have two official languages. I’m so sick of hearing everything in French and English. Kind of a joke that the Liberal candidate for Prime Minister (what the US calls President) couldn’t really understand English. My brother said it really came down to choosing between French and English. I agree, it was. I voted for English. I’m in Ontario and we just tune out anything in that French babble. (Nothing personal to the French speaking people. But if you are in a room where everyone is speaking a foreign language how long does it take before you get annoyed with it and just tune them all out?)

You Are… InSpired

From Puzzled Me


You Are An ENFP


The Inspirer

You love being around people, and you are deeply committed to your friends.

You are also unconventional, irreverent, and unimpressed by authority and rules.

Incredibly perceptive, you can usually sense if someone has hidden motives.

You use lots of colorful language and expressions. You’re quite the storyteller!

In love, you are quite the charmer. And you are definitely willing to risk your heart.

You often don’t follow through with your flirting or professed feelings. And you do break a lot of hearts.

At work, you are driven but not a workaholic. You just always seem to enjoy what you do.

You would make an excellent entrepreneur, politician, or journalist.

How you see yourself: compassionate, unselfish, and understanding

When other people don’t get you, they see you as: gushy, emotional, and unfocused