Meanwhile …

Meanwhile, my wife (in part because we love the taste and healthfullness and in large part to give our crazy young sons – 5 and 7 – something to do on a freezing cold day) is cooking this cabbage soup which is the inheritance of her maternal grandmother.

She was a pre-World War II immigrant to Palestine, traveling alone, from a city in what was then and again now in southeastern Poland, today not far from the Poland-Ukraine border. She lived most of her life in Haifa.

Sanok is part of Poland. But for a century and a half, after the Partition of Poland, it was part of Habsburg Empire and then Austria-Hungary. Ukrainian nationalists thought it should be part of Ukraine. Indeed, starting about a thousand years ago it was wrested back and forth between rulers of Kiev and Poland. In the early 20th century, its population was roughly 30% Jewish.

My mother-in-law calls this ‘Polish Borscht’. But it’s not really anything like what you probably know of as Borscht, if you’re familiar with borscht, mainly because it doesn’t include beetroot. It’s based on Tomato paste. Borscht is a Ukrainian soup, at least of Ukrainian origin, which exists in various permutations across much of Central and Eastern Europe.

Ironically, many of my wife’s grandmother’s family and extended family (who remained on the outbreak of World War II) were able to save themselves from the Nazis by fleeing into Soviet Ukraine. From whence they were deported to Siberia.

From there, after the war, most of them made their way to Israel. For all the horrors of mid-century Ukraine under Soviet Rule, for some there were recompenses.

My understanding, unconfirmed, is that most of the ethnic Ukrainian population of the city was deported into eastern Germany after World War II because of Soviet and Polish fears of Ukrainian separatism. [Confirmed by TPM Reader TP as ‘Operation Vistula‘.] So there may be no ethnic Ukrainians there today. I do not know. It seems unlikely.