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Ukrainians experience their first Thanksgiving

By Staff | Dec 3, 2013

In Montgomery Jasmine Yarish (center) serves a first Thanksgiving to Ukrainian students Iegor Vlasenko (left) and Liudmyla Chepa.

MONTGOMERY Last week, two Ukrainian students experienced their first Thanksgiving at a home near Montgomery. Jasmine Yarish played host at the residence of her vacationing aunt where she was caring for the house and pets.

Having been at college and abroad during the past six Thanksgiving holidays, Jasmine was anxious to host nine guests including Liudmyla Chepa and Iegor Vlasenko who are furthering their education in horticulture at the Kurt Weiss greenhouses near Washingtonville.

Chepa and Vlasenko are two of four foreign students at the greenhouse located across the street from Lakeville Specialties where Yarish’s mother Krys is in charge of sales and distribution. During the student’s twelve month internship, Krys has become an acquaintance.

As Montour County has no public transportation and the students no vehicle, some locals have stepped to the forefront to give these visitors opportunities to see and experience life in the United States. As Thanksgiving is strictly an American holiday, the students were anxious to learn about it.

Remarking about the fare at the holiday table, Chepa said, “I’ve never had coconut cream pie, and in the Ukraine, string beans are put in soup and not used as a side dish.”

Vlasenka said, “I’ve never had sweet potato souffle and in my country, pork is the leading meat consumed.”

Speaking of other holidays, like us the Ukrainians celebrate Easter, Christmas and New Years. In a holiday similar to Memorial Day, they have a “Remembrance Day.” Usually celebrated the week after Easter, entire families take food and eat at the cemeteries where there are benches and low tables.

Vlasenka said, “After spending three or four hours, we leave food, flowers and trinkets at the headstones. As soon as relatives exit, the poor enter and take the food so that nothing is wasted.” Most Ukrainians are Russian Orthodox so the visits include the church leader walking about the cemetery saying prayers.

To study in the U.S., applicants must have first served an internship in Europe, and must speak English. “Grades, references, and resumes are then taken into consideration to come to America,” Chepa said.

Each student shared some of their impressions of the people here. With Krys her American friend, Chepa has been attended and playing team volleyball. “One of the women on the team is 70 years old; I find that amazing. It is also unusual in the Ukraine for women to drive cars,”Chepa said. After conferring with her fellow student, they reasoned the cause is that vehicles are expensive and not as affordable to persons there. Wages are lower and petrol more expensive than in America.

Vlasenko observed that, “Americans are more open and friendly, even the checkers at the grocery stores make small talk. All seem to say what’s on their mind.”

As the students joined the card games they learned what initiated the American Thanksgiving holiday and were appreciative of the leftovers they took back with them.