Memories of Eva and Anton Iwanciwski

I was born in 1969 and Eva and Anton Iwanciwski both died in the 1980s (I believe). All of my memories of my Ukrainian grandparents were before I graduated from high school. It is sad that they died so early, that I was not able to build more lasting memories of them.

My grandmother Eva had my mother very late in life (I believe she was 40?) in Germany while World War 2 was nearing its end. Anton Iwanciwski loved Eva and my mother Ann and brought them with him to New Haven, CT, America for a fresh start. My mom was only 5 or so. In 1964 they moved to West Haven

I grew up in the US and while I took Ukrainian language classes, participated in Ukrainian dancing and appreciated my roots, it was still hard for me to understand all the traumas my family had gone through to get me to my "privileged" life here in the US.

Luckily, while I was growing up both my mom and dad were working full time by the time I was six. My sister and I were sent to live with our grandparents each summer in West Haven, Connecticut. Many children rarely see their grandparents, but we spent full summers with them to understand their world. So while I only had perhaps 15 or so years with my grandparents, I did get to see them often.

Eva and Anton had a one story ranch house in West Haven with a lovely garden around it. They stayed in touch with families they had known in Germany. There were the Stanishewskyjs who had a daughter, Romana Stanishewskyj. Romana then married Paul Czerepacha, who became my godfather. There were the Andrusyshens - Hnat and Josephine. This couple was a staple of our lives growing up and I always thought Hnat was very handsome. Both have since passed on.

I remember tiger lilies and lily of the valley as special plants in my grandparents' garden. They had several fruit trees, as well as gooseberry bushes which they made homemade wine from. Both were very gentle people who spoke little English. My Mom would say that when she spanked my sister Jenn and I that her father Anton would cry, upset that she would hit such little girls.

I remember their home with flowered wallpaper, plastic on the couches, a single TV in the "TV room" but not in the main living room. They always put out a full spread of food for visitors. At these events Anton drank vodka mixed with ginger ale, while my grandmother drank blackberry brandy.

They had a beautiful German coocoo clock with hanging pendulums. A wall shelving system held pretty Ukrainian eggs in it. There were framed photos of famous Ukrainian people with fabric hangings on either side of them.

Baba (what I called my grandmother) loved to cook. She would make pirogies with potato and onion fillings. She used an old tin can to cut circles out of the hand rolled dough. They were delicious with lots of sour cream. Mom says: It was potato and farmers cheese. They were dressed with warm butter that had sauteed, chopped onion.

Another favorite of mine was potato pancakes with crispy edges. She would make creations that were rolled up cabbage with meat inside, I was less fond of those. Another food item was a gruel with poppy seeds which again I was not very fond of.

Mom Says: holubchi (little doves) - stuffed cabbage - filled with ground beef and rice and baked. gruel with poppy seeds - I believe that was wheat with poppy seeds and honey -- "kutya" - a Christmas specialty, which I loved.

Eva would buy Swiss Knight cheese, which I still love. It's made in Switzerland and is a processed gruyere cheese in wedge shape. She would not buy bumblebee tuna because it had a mermaid on the can. She felt that what was shown on the can was therefore what was inside the can, and she would not eat mermaid meat.

A creation which I'm sure was not Ukrainian but we loved was vanilla ice cream with 800 pounds of chocolate sprinkles (jimmies) in it which we mushed until it was liquid.

Eva was very tolerant but did still have her traditions. Jenn (my sister) once decorated her Easter Eggs with Disney characters, and Eva refused to bring them to the Blessing of the Eggs at church because it would be inappropriate.

I adored kielbasa, usually we just had these as a side with the pirogies or potato pancakes.

I remember as an early teen that I had hard contact lenses that had to "bake" overnight in a little case. The case had to stay plugged in. Every morning when I woke up I would find the case unplugged. Finally Mom had to talk with Baba to explain to her that the case had to stay plugged in overnight in order to do its job.

Ann Memories

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