By Maddie Roth
Do you remember your first Thanksgiving? The warm spices faded into the air from pies cooling on the countertop. Your family members gathered around a table — bountiful in harvest — clinking their glasses together during a toast.
This past Thanksgiving, Anhelina Kharovska experienced these scenes for the first time. Kharovska is a junior from Ukraine but is studying abroad at Broadneck High School as an exchange student this year.
“My first association with the word Thanksgiving was just a roasted turkey, just the dinner,” she said. “It’s a dinner, but it’s also an opportunity for the whole family — living in different parts of the Earth — to come together, play some games, share experience and tell stories.”
Back home in Ukraine, Kharovska’s family isn’t local, and here, her host family lives mostly in North Carolina and South Carolina. She explained how she celebrated with her host family in America.
“Each [person] will provide a dish and [we’ll] give thanks for something that we find important,” she said. “My [host] grandma and grandpa on my [host] father's side are really big board games fans, so we were up late playing lots of board games.”
Just like with families in America, Kharovska’s family has a traditional recipe they make on special occasions. For her Thanksgiving feast in South Carolina, she prepared varenyky. “I usually use the recipe my mom uses because I really like it.” She explained that the recipe is simple, using only “flour, water, salt, baking soda, and sometimes egg for the dough.”
To fill the pastry, she said, “You can add anything you’d like to it: cherries, potatoes, cabbage, blueberries, strawberries. I added cherries because I really like them.”
“Really, mashed potatoes here?” Kharovska thought to herself after seeing them among other familiar dinner sides and entrées on the table. “My family often prepares them at home, [but] with all the different fast-food restaurants, [and] cafes here, I didn’t expect the things found in Ukraine to also be served here.”
In Ukraine, turkey isn’t as popular even though it is sold in some stores. This was Kharovska’s first time eating turkey and enjoying its smoky flavor.
“There’s not really something that’s similar to Thanksgiving [in Ukraine],” she explained when reminded of the festivities she encountered in South Carolina. With the exception of Thanksgiving, many holidays celebrated in the United States are also celebrated in Ukraine including Christmas, Easter, an Independence Day and a Labor Day.
While she misses her family back home, Kharovska is, “So thankful for the family I found here, they’re so close to me.”
What were you thankful for this year?