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Ukrainian guests are highlight of Homemakers Luncheon

Trish Turner

Messenger Staff 

The Meade County Extension Homemakers International Luncheon on April 21 focused on Ukraine. Back in 2019 the Meade County Extension Homemaker President, Cathy Smith, had asked her Ukrainian daughter-in-law Larysa Smith to do a presentation on Ukraine for their annual International Luncheon. Due to COVID that luncheon was unable to be held and the luncheon was rescheduled for this year. When this luncheon was originally planned no one could have imagined that Ukraine would be in the news so prominently in 2022. The luncheon, which cost $12 per person, was held in the auditorium of the new addition to the Meade County Extension Office. Several round tables were set up and were decorated with placemats that highlighted facts about

Ukraine, had a sachet full of an assortment of Ukrainian candy, and a program for the event. The centerpiece for each table was a vase full of sunflowers, which are the Ukrainian national flower, and have become a symbol of solidarity and resistance. There was also a basket on each table for people to place donations in for emergency assistance to Ukraine ( through Razom, Inc).

The event was well attended, with representatives from all the Homemaker clubs in Meade County and their guests. There were also other groups who attended such as a ladies group called Gals Time Out. One of the members, Frankie Stull, told me that the group was started several years ago to get ladies together from Meade County, Elizabethtown, Louisville, and Indiana. They do things such as take trips, attend community events, and walk together. They also give each other support when members go through a crisis. The luncheon began with a welcome from Liz Hawkins, the International Luncheon committee chair. Jennifer Bridge, who is the Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences Education for Meade County, then took the podium and asked for a moment of silence for Mary Pike, whose funeral service was being held that day. Mary had been a member of the Garrett Homemakers Club and was very active in both the county and area councils. Jennifer also told a little about the new building and that it was still a work in progress since some items are still on backorder. Before we were all dismissed to eat, we were serenaded by members of the MCHS Chorus, under the direction of Shaune Rebilas. The students sang the Ukrainian Prayer in the Ukrainian language. This prayer was written in 1885 by Oleksandr Konysky at a time when the Imperial Russian government suppressed the use of the Ukrainian language. The prayer was printed on the back of our program in English. The chorus did an amazing job to learn the Ukrainian words and sing them so beautifully.

Home Plate Restaurant outdid themselves by providing authentic Ukrainian dishes for the luncheon. We all were directed to enter the kitchen next to our meeting room where a buffet line was set up. The dishes served were borscht (soup), Ukrainian tomato and cucumber salad with sour cream dressing, Chicken Kyiv, Nachynka (cornbread stuffing), Ukrainian met pie, and apple cobbler. Following the meal, Ukrainians Larysa Smith and her friend Oksana Voloshyna gave a presentation about the history and culture of Ukraine. Larysa and Oksana were wearing traditional Ukrainian dresses and flower crowns. Oksana is a teacher and was in the U.S. on a traveler’s visa before the attacks began on Ukraine by Russia. She teaches children remotely who still live in Ukraine, and others who are scattered in nations where they have become refugees.

At the start of her presentation Larysa played the Ukrainian National Anthem as she and Oksana sang along and we all stood. There were many facts Larysa shared with us about Ukraine, such as that their flag of blue above yellow represents the sky above yellow fields of wheat. Ukraine has very fertile soil and has been known as the “breadbasket” of Europe. Its output of grain and potatoes is among the highest in Europe. They also have large mining operations for precious metals, plus coal and oil fields. Throughout the centuries Ukraine has been occupied and ruled by many nations including the Vikings, Poland, Russia, and the Soviet Union. They declared their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Larysa was born and raised in Ukraine but as an adult she met and married a man from Meade County, and has lived here for several years. Larysa’s parents moved from Russia to Kyiv, Ukraine before she was born, so she is ethnically Russian, but identifies as Ukrainian. She finds it hard to communicate with many of her relatives and friends in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine started in February. Unfortunately, Russian President Putin has done a good job convincing the majority of Russians that the U.S. and Ukraine started the war and that the Russian aggression is justified. The results of the Russian aggression in Ukraine are tragic, and we hope that a peaceful resolution will soon be found. Oksana Voloshyna is looking forward to when she can return to Ukraine and teach her students in person once again. All Ukrainians are hopeful for peace and being able to return to their homeland. The Meade County Homemaker’s International Luncheon this year was very timely and it helped us all understand more about the people of Ukraine and its history. I was also pleased to receive notice from Jennifer Bridge that when the funds collected for Ukrainian relief at the meeting were tallied they amounted to $755.