“I feel like it’s genocide — of our heritage, our tradition, our church, our livelihood,” said Katelyn Brewer, 36.
Ukrainian through her father, Brewer attends services at St. Michael’s and holds her heritage close. So when the church needed volunteers to make pierogi, she dropped everything to help, bringing her 4-year-old son, J.J., who snacked on goldfish while his mom got to work.
“Treat it like a little pie crust,” said Brewer, as she pinched closed an ivory disc of flour. “Slowly curve and mold the dough over top. Make sure you have enough of an overhang that you can pinch it closed.”
She sprinkled flour around the seam to keep it from getting sticky.
Founded in 1912, St. Michael’s was originally located at another building on the 500 block of Wolfe Street, moving to its current space in 1992. The new building was paid for, in part, through pierogi sales.
Back in the 1950s, Hauff said, her grandmother often coordinated women in the church community as they gathered every week to make pierogies, which they sold on Fridays during Lent, when practicing Catholics abstain from meat.
“During Lent it’s a big thing,” Hauff said.
But pierogies are a necessary dish at any holiday meal, along with stuffed cabbage and a sweet Ukrainian bread called paska.
As she folded pierogies, a skill she learned from her Ukrainian father, Olga Kulnich, 78, wore a yellow and blue apron that said “the best cook in the world” in Ukrainian. The colors echoed the Ukrainian flag, blue for the sky, yellow for the wheat fields that covered the land, she explained.
Late last month, Kulnich’s brother’s headstone at a Ukrainian cemetery in Dundalk was toppled, one of some 49 gravesites to be disturbed by vandals over the course of two separate incidents the church says is now being investigated by police.
Outside the church, with its striking gold domes, two blue and yellow flags bore a message: “Stop Putin/Stop War” and “Pray for Ukraine.”
Kaczaniuk said helping out with the pierogi sale and other church projects to assist Ukraine has given her a boost at a time when she needed it most. Her husband died of complications from the coronavirus in December 2020, just shy of their 50th wedding anniversary.
“We were like two peas in a pod,” she said of her late husband.
In her grief, Kaczaniuk struggled to find a reason to go on.
But more recently, she’s found renewed purpose. Upstairs sat bags of clothes and diapers, collected by the church to send to Ukrainians in need. Within the church community, there has been talk of how to sponsor refugees and to help them start new lives in Baltimore. Kaczaniuk is ready to assist.
“Maybe God saved me for something,” she said.
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