Baba was Ukrainian, Papa was Russian: A tale of two dumplings

by | Jul 20, 2022 | World

No matter where I am in the world, all it takes is to make a batch of dumplings and I’m transported back to another place and time, more peaceful times, around the oak dining table in the red-brick bungalow my grandfather built in Blacktown in the western suburbs of Sydney.It’s the late 1970s. Out front, my grandfather Ivan’s 1967 Falcon is in the driveway, a sprinkler waters the lawn, and rose bushes grow along the paling fence (I can smell them). There’s an oleander tree, and a jungle of tropical plants shading the dining-living area where we spend most of our time.
Here, in my kitchen in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with the news of Russia’s escalation in Ukraine on the television in the background, I begin my dumpling-making ritual, an intentional act of remembering so I don’t forget.
Since Putin’s war on Ukraine began, my bittersweet dumpling-making process has become fraught with pain.
I tie my apron strings, reach for the wooden rolling pin and take the flour from the cupboard. I can see my grandparents’ backyard in Australia: an iconic Hills Hoist clothesline and a henhouse full of chooks that laid eggs with deep orange yolks.
Pork and beef pelmeni waiting to be boiled [Terence Carter/Al Jazeera]
There are rickety sheds that looked like they’d topple over in a strong wind, and a flourishing vegetable …

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