Summer AS XLII (2007)
Volume XII, Issue 4 (#46)


From the Nachalnik

From its very beginning, the Slavic Interest Group has been Pennsic-centric. It is at Pennsic that we were first founded, where our recruitment is highest, and where we have traditionally met for education and entertainment. My deep thanks to Sfandra for hosting the gathering this year and making sure that this tradition continues. I hope that everyone who is going to War will attend the gathering.

I also want to remind everyone to continue to keep the Slavic University in mind and on your calendar (December 8, 2007). There is now a website for the event which Zygmunt is updating as things develop ( talonvale/sigslum.html ). He is still looking for instructors. If you are interested in teaching or helping with the event, contact him ( Zygmunt Nadratowski, Tom Nadratowski, 8074 Parks Dr. E1, Spring Arbor MI 49283, ).


Pennsic SIG Gathering

The Annual Pennsic SIG Gathering is scheduled for Thursday, 8/9 at 3pm in AS 03. We have the space for two hours.

Please bring anything you'd like to share refreshment-wise, as well as any books, projects, papers, etc, to share/show-off. I'm planning on bringing some water-based drinks for us (most likely sekanjiban) and trying to think if it's logistically possible for me to cook up pierogies as well for us all to enjoy.

So come one, come all, bring friends, bring family, let's get together!

Sfandra Dmitrieva


Pennsic Classes

By Paul Wickenden of Thanet

Every year, there are a variety of traditional classes plus some new exciting offerings. I have listed both classes with an obvious Slavic focus, as well as ones that are being offered by SIG members (with an assumption that they will be more likely to have a Slavic-East European focus than other classes – and also to offer some free publicity to our members). The list is far from comprehensive. It is, first of all, based on the listed posted online as of June 1, and it is based on my casual selection of that list. I may have missed one or more significant offerings and I apologize to those instructors. Still, I hope you will find this list useful for a small taste of what awaits you at Pennsic this year!


August 1

4PM – AS 05 – Michael of Safita, Russian Icons 101 – Discussion of medieval icons from a variety of monasteries, churches and museums in Russia. Also discussion of monastic wall paintings in the Republic of Macedonia. Class taught by an archaeologist directing the excavation of Markovi Kule. Handouts ($2) limited to 40.


August 2

9AM – Dragon's Magic Merchant Booth – Maria Pienkneplotno, Fabric 101 – Overview of period appropriate fabrics, fabric use, fabric types, identifying fabric using a burn test or chemical test. $1.00 handouts and $2.00 swatches fee.


August 6

10AM – AS 04 – Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Medieval-Style Mustard – Hands-on mustard sauce making, with discussion of medieval recipes and techniques. Materials $1.50/limited to 40.

10AM – AS 02 – Luceta di Cosimo, Baba Yaga, the Arch-Villainess of Russian Folklore – Baba Yaga is a common character in Russian and Eastern European fairy tales. We will discuss the diverse roles she plays, and look into the origins of the character. Handouts limited to 20.

5PM – AS 05 – Kolosvari Arpadne Julia, Hungarian Names 101 – An introduction to period Hungarian names, with information about pronunciation and sources, for people with Hungarian personas as well as for their heralds.

7PM – AS 05 – Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Known World Librarians Gathering – If you are a librarian, a library groupie, a library, or anything like it, come join us for gossip, information exchange and fellowship.


August 7

9AM – AS 05 – Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Preserving the Harvest – When were different foods harvested? How were they preserved? Some food samples will be available. Handouts ($1) limited to 30.

9AM – Dragon's Magic Merchant Booth – Maria Pienkneplotno, Fabric 101 – see August 2 listing above.

3PM – AS 06 – Sfandra Dmitrieva iz Chernigova, Kievan Garb – A survey of clothing and accessories for early period Russian garb, focusing on construction and embellishment. $1.00 Fee for Handout

5PM – AS 07 – Luceta di Cosimo, Deciphering Russian and Ukrainian Traditional Embroidery – The traditional embroidery is beautiful and intricate, but do you know what it means? In this class we will discuss the meaning and persistence of old pre-Christian symbols in Russian and Ukrainian embroidery, including the Tree of Life, the Goddess, etc.

5PM – AS 02 – Michael of Safita, Russian Archaeology 101 – Discussion of pottery, metal, wood, stone, textiles, etc. from controlled archaeological excavations at Novgorod and other sites in Russia. Class taught by an archaeologist directing the excavation of Markovi Kule. Handouts ($2) limited to 40.

6PM – AS 02 – Michael of Safita, Russian Icons 101 – see August 2 listing above.


August 8

3PM – (Meet at) A&S Tent – Sfandra Dmitrieva iz Chernigova, Shopping Pennsic for Russians – This is a WALKING class. We will be touring the Merchant Area. This class will teach you what to look for when shopping for Russian garb elements. No purchases required. Attending Kievan Garb class recommended but not required.

August 9

3PM – AS 03 – Sfandra Dmitrieva iz Chernigova, Slavic Interest Group Roundtable – Join us for a sociable discussion of Eastern European cultures. Share books, ask questions, share refreshments, meet and greet members from around the Known World.


August 10

5PM – AS 05 – Kolosvari Arpadne Julia, Hungarian Names 101 – see August 6 listing above.


An Exercise in Translation: Stavr Godinovich, A Russian Bylina (c1500)

By Liudmila Vladimirova doch'


The feared ruler of Russia, its first Tsar Ivan IV, better known as Ivan the Terrible, could not go to sleep without a story. Thus, he had by his bedside “three blind old men, to whose stories he listened until sleep overtook him.” Likewise, Vasilii Shuisky, a ruler of Russia in the 17 th century, owned a “bakhar” (teller), while Mikhail Romanov kept three storytellers in his chambers. Though we don't know what stories they told, it is highly likely that at least some of them were epic tales or songs later known as byliny .

No byliny were known to be recorded before 17 th century, while oral tradition preserved them through singing and retelling through generations. One of the oldest surviving records, dated to mid-17 th century, is that of the tale of Stavr Godinovich (Stavr, Godina's son) and his clever wife Vasilisa.

This handwritten record, known as “Pazuhin's column,” was first published in 1991 and later misplaced so that only a photocopy remains. This text is a definite copy of some other written original because of the various errors that indicate that it was not made from oral presentation. The bylina as recorded by various researchers and collectors had two main versions. In both, clever Vasilisa dresses up as a foreign envoy to rescue her husband from the dungeons of Kievan Prince Vladimir. However, in what most researchers agree has to be an older, original version, she is threatening Vladimir with force and demanding unpaid tax. In a somewhat more interesting but also more recent version, Vasilisa as the envoy demands the hand of Vladimir's daughter or niece. In both cases she is suspected by a woman of the Prince's household, and has to undergo various tests of manhood, including wrestling, archery, chess, and even taking a steam bath. The Pazuhin column version is closest to the earliest documented recording from an oral presentation by a collector in Kirsha Danilov collection of late 1700s.

Historians and folklorists agree that byliny as recorded in Kirsha Danilov collection existed long before 18 th century. There is some debate on their historicism, but none on their medieval origins. Interestingly, Stavr is believed to be a historical figure, mentioned in Novgorod's First Chronicle under 1118 as a boyar who was jailed by Vladimir Monomakh of Kiev, as well as appearing in other contemporary records.

In oral tradition, byliny were never told or sung in exact same way by two different storytellers. Thus, all of the collected records differ in details. Since an English translation was not easily available, I prepared my own version primarily based on the Pazuhin column, but including the chess episode from the Kirsha Danilov version. It should be noted, of course, that in attempting to translate bylina fragments as close to the original as possible I am losing much of their rhythm. Because the Russian syntax does not have a fixed word order, direct word for word translation would be meaningless to an English reader. Thus, minimal modifications were made in the translation throughout the supporting documentation. However, in writing the submitted bylina I had to strive for a compromise between maintaining the poetic form and maintaining proper English grammar.

Also, byliny were customarily sung either as simple vocal performances or accompanied by gusly . Putilov mentions that there were storytellers on record who had the same problem, and they simply recited the bylina trying to maintain its sing-song quality, as I usually attempt. However, as a 16 th century Russian woman married to a foreign merchant, I have a good excuse for not singing – my husband forbids me to do so, and will beat me if I disobey, though he does not beat me often. However, below are two variations of the music for Stavr Godinovich collected from a 1964 recording:



References (titles translated to English by the author)

  • Byliny (1986). Sovetskiy Pisatel: Leningrad, USSR.
  • Byliny of Pechora . (2001). Nauka :St. Petersburg. From
  • Byliny in Records and Retellings of 16 th -18 th cc. (1960) AN USSR: Moscow. From
  • Karamzin, N. M. History of the Russian State. Kristall, St. Peterburg, 1998.
  • Lipetz, R. S. (1969). Epics and the Ancient Rus' . Nauka: Moscow, USSR.
  • Mirzoev, B. G. (1978) Byliny and Chronicles: Monuments of the Russian Historic Thought.* Mysl: Moscow, USSR.
  • Plisetzkiy, M. M. (1962) Historicism of Russian Byliny . Vysshaya Shkola: Moscow, USSR.
  • Prozorov, L. (2006) The Times of Russian Heroes: Through the Pages of byliny into the Depth of Time. Nasledie Predkov: Moscow, Russia.
  • Putilov, B. N. (1986) Byliny – Russian Classical Epics. In Byliny* (1986).
  • Sokolov, Y. M. (translated by Smith, C. R.). Russian Folklore. Folklore Associates: Hatboro, Pennsylvania, 1966.
  • Zguta, R. Russian minstrels : a history of the skomorokhi . University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, 1978


    Once in Kiev, the grandest of capitals,
    At the court of Bright Sun, fine Vladimir-Prince,
    There was once a feast and a revel grand,
    For so many noble boyars, proud princes, knights,
    For so many guests asked and well received.
    They all ate until they couldn't add a bite,
    They all drank until they fell off their seats,
    They all bragged with their drink-loosened tongues.

    One would boast of his trusty noble steed,
    One would boast of his bright coat of silks,
    Another of his Villages and peasants,
    Yet another of his towns and townships.
    A smart man praises his dear mother,
    But a foolish man praises his young wife…
    Yet alone there sat Stavr, young Godina's son,
    Sat he quietly, did not drink nor brag.

    Spoke then Vladimir, Prince of Kiev-bright,
    “Hear you Stavr, young Godina's son,
    Do you not have any Villages,
    Do you not have any townships?
    Do you not have any noble steeds?
    Is your mother not worthy of praise?
    Is your wife not fair of face?”
    And so spoke Stavr, young Godina's son:
    “So I have towns and villages,
    But that's not to brag about.
    So I have plenty of good steeds,
    But that's not to brag about.
    So my mother is wise as she's old,
    But that's not to brag about.
    And my wife is a joy to behold,
    But that's not to brag about.
    For she'd trick you all, boyars noble, bold,
    Buy and sell you all, merchants full of gold,
    And drive crazy you, Vladimir the Bright Sun.”

    Quiet went the feast, and Vladimir, Prince
    …till his boyars said, “Oh, Vladimir Prince,
    Chain you Stavr in a dungeon deep,
    Let him stay underneath your keep,
    Let his young wife come do her tricks,
    Let his young wife come turn you round the bend,
    Let his young wife get him out of jail.”
    So they chained young Stavr in a dungeon deep,
    And they locked young Stavr underneath the keep.

    Stavr's good trusty man listened to these words,
    Then he jumped upon Stavr's noble horse,
    And he rode away to Stavr's distant keep,
    There to fall at Stavr's wife's, Vasilisa's feet.
    “Oh you, Vasilisa daughter Mikulichna,
    You sit here drinking and fanning yourself,
    You know not what became of your lord, your man!
    In the dungeon sits your beloved Stavr,
    For he bragged that you would outsmart the boyars,
    And he bragged that you would drive insane the Prince
    Our Bright Sun Prince Vladimir Kievskiy!”

    Young wife Vasilisa thought and then spoke thus:
    “Gold we have aplenty, but it won't buy Stavr,
    Strength we can assemble, but it won't save Stavr…
    Only woman's wit will get me my Stavr.”

    So she called forth then for some scissors sharp,
    And she had her braid, golden braid, all shorn,
    So she took some garments of her husband Stavr,
    And she dressed as a man, as a King's envoy.
    With three hundred Stavr's warriors brave,
    She rode fast to Kiev the capital,
    But just under far Kiev's white gates,
    She set up her men to wait in a camp.

    To Vladimir-Prince all alone she went,
    Set him bows deep – but not very deep.
    Styled herself was Vasiliy, son Ivanovich,
    An envoy of the Golden Horde.
    “You, Vladimir-Duke, owe us our tax,
    For as many years as you rule this land.
    Would you pay this tax, by tomorrow night?
    Or should I lay waste to yours, this land?”

    Spoke then Bright Sun, good Vladimir-Prince,
    “Oh you dread envoy of the Golden Horde,
    Let us have some time, let us feast and drink,
    Let you rest a while from your travels long.”
    So boyars and knights led the dread ..envoy,
    Led Vasiliy son Ivanovich to the broad seats,
    To the laden table, there to rest and feast.
    There royal Prince's wife Apraksia
    Took a look or two, and thus spoke to him:
    “Vladimir my lord, my beloved Bright Sun,
    Worry not yourself over taxes owed.
    This is no Vasiliy son Ivanovich
    Not an envoy of the Golden Horde,
    But a woman, Vasilisa doch's Mikulishna,
    Wife of Stavr who sits in your dungeons deep.

    I can see as she walks like a woman,
    Blush and white lead on her face still remain,
    Her hands are delicate like a woman,
    Even grooves from her rings did not yet fade.”

    So Vladimir-Prince, to avoid the shame,
    Went to test, to try the dread young envoy.
    “Hey you, young Vasiliy Ivanovich,
    Did you bring strong men to try them in a fight,
    Wrestle with my men, pleasing our sight?”
    Thus responds the young envoy Vasiliy Ivanovich,
    “I brought no such men, but I like a fight,
    So I will go wrestle, to please your princely sight.”

    Thus the dread envoy readied for a brawl,
    As five strongest men came to the wrestling yard.
    One soon lost his head, and another the arm,
    Third's leg was torn out, fourth flew over the gate,
    And the fifth ran off fast as he just could.
    So dread young envoy bowed to the Prince.

    So spoke Prince Vladimir to his Apraksia,
    “Hear you, Princess Apraksia, all my shame
    Was for nothing, lost my best men I for nothing,
    This is no Vasilisa Mikulichna, such strong knight
    Is the dread envoy, young Vasiliy Ivanovich.
    Silly woman that you are, harebrained,
    Your hair is long but your mind is short.”

    And again spoke to him Apraksia
    “Vladimir my lord, my beloved Bright Sun,
    This is no Vasiliy son Ivanovich
    Not an envoy of the Golden Horde,
    But a woman, Vasilisa doch's Mikulishna,
    Wife of Stavr who sits in your dungeons deep.”

    So Vladimir-Prince, pondering some more,
    Went to test again the dread ambassador.
    “Hey you dread envoy Vasiliy Ivanovich,
    Would you like to play at archery with my boyars' sons, Shoot your arrows at my golden rings,
    Split your arrows on my sharpened blades?”
    First Prince's man shot, but he undershot;
    Next Prince's man shot, but he overshot,
    Last Prince's man shot, altogether missed.
    Then Vasiliy Ivanovich stretched his bow tight,
    Then he aimed his arrow straight and bright,
    Shoot right through the golden ring,
    Split his arrow on the sharpened blade,
    So that halves were even, measure even and weight.

    What was he to do, Bright Sun Vladimir-Prince?
    So he set himself to test this dread envoy.
    “Hey, Vasiliy Mukulievich, would you take a rest,
    With my golden set would you play me in chess?”
    So they played a game, Prince Vladimir lost,
    Played another game, Prince Vladimir lost,
    And at his third checkmate, under table went.

    Now spoke thus Bright Sun Vladimir Prince,
    “Thank you for the joy, and obeying me,
    Ask you what you will, you dread young envoy,
    Ask of treasures, gold, or of noble steeds.”
    And replied to him that young envoy,
    “Do not give to me treasures, gold, or steeds,
    Do not put on me shuba -coats princely rich,
    Only let me have your musician best,
    One who would play gusly better than the rest.”

    But Vladimir-Prince, he had no such man,
    None at his great court, only one in jail,
    If he lets Stavr go, he won't see him again,
    But if he won't let Stavr go, he'll get the envoy upset.
    Sent Prince for young Stavr, took his irons off.
    Sat Stavr on a stool to play, and played a wondrous song.
    Then envoy, he speaks to Stavr with such words:
    “Do remember, Stavr, you remember me?”
    Stavr won't look at him, won't remember him.
    “Do remember, Stavr, you remember Stavr,
    As we played a game with you of old?
    You had cane was of silver, I had golden ring,
    So you always fit, while I did sometimes?”
    Stavr then looks at him, and he sees his wife.
    So he takes Vasilisa by her snow white hands,
    And he kisses Vasil l isa on her honey lips.
    So Vladimir-Duke hung his head in shame,
    And for his great boast he forgave young Stavr,
    Let him trade in Kiev always free of tax,
    So that Stavr with praise came back to his town,
    Lived there with Vasilisa all his happy days.


    The Origin of the World

    By Aldo C. Marturano

    [Note: Last year, I was part of a delegation to Chechnya on a project called We All Are Noah's Children, aiming at the reconciliation of the three ethnic groups living in North Ossetia. One of our goals was to find common roots which could help put these peoples together again after the atrocities in Beslan a few years ago. While doing this work, I came across the following bylina which may be of interest to SIG members. The story concerns the creation of the world as it is recorded – and shared – among the ethnic groups of the region of Chechnya]


    The Text

    Once upon a time a local lord (a Chechnyan padchak ) named Piryo [or Piryon] son of Sel was idling around and not doing much when he decided to create the Earth and the Heaven. The Earth was quite easy to make while the Heaven (which should cover the Earth completely from above) required more skill and time. Mankind therefore had to wait because without a sky over their heads there was no sun, and no sun meant no clouds. And everybody knows that clouds bring along rain and rain wets the crops and the crops grow!

    At length the large and imposing dome of the sky was ready. It was so extensive that even Piryo himself could not get across it. In order to measure the size of the sky Piryo decided to send a donkey to reach the opposite end. It took the animal roughly three years to do so (and that donkey could not come back as it was too much for him and he died instead!). As everybody knows, donkeys live for a long time, so you can just imagine how large the sky was!

    The Great God of the Universe, after looking at Piryo's work, did not like it and asked his padchak to make another and better one. Piryo did as he was told and this time the skydome was in the form of a large tent (like the ones used by the nomads of the steppes, but made of bronze). In the fabric, Piryo placed many holes so that the rain could drip down from them. Piryo then summoned the women to roll barrels full of water over the dome. Whenever rain was needed, the barrels were ripped open, allowing the water to flow out and rain to fall on the tilled fields underneath.



    Piryo was thought to be sensitive to the needs of his people. He loved old people and kids and made many good things for them. He is said to have invented both the flour mill and even bread and taught the women how to knead and bake the loaves. Whenever he saw somebody who did not handle bread as he should or dropped a crumble and did not pick it back up he turned very angry. It is just to honor Piryo that women today in the Caucasus wear a band around their forehead from which dangle jewelled beads (meant to resemble raindrops). This reminds them how their foremothers let rain trickle from the barrels overhead.

    Piryo or Piryon is probably from the same source as the Russian Perun who was the highest ranking god of the pre-Christian Kievans. Mentioning Perun instead of any other god of the Slavs indicates that contact with the Northern people took place most probably at the time of Vladimir (i.e., by the second half of the tenth century).

    The failed first attempt of building a perfect Heaven could be an allusion to two “invasions” from the North and this may also correspond with the usual commercial seasonal intrusions of the Rus' merchants or even with Svyatoslav's attempt at conquering the Caucasus and the foundation of the Principality of Tmutorakan at the other end of the Kazbek Chain while the second and final attempt with the servitude of the women could be the conclusive (at least cultural) conquest by the Slavs.

    The idea of women as the dispensers of water is a very old representation in the European farming world. The Slavs let women handle the wells and the distribution of water and there is no reason why the same role could not be played by Caucasus women too even if no local documentation exists.



    By Zygmunt Nadratowski

    I have tried to give a sampling of the food of different income brackets. The ultra rich, the Magnates, would eat between 5000-7000 calories a day. Obviously, the poor would be lucky to have anywhere close to that! Which is why (1) the clothes of the wealthy Szlachta are made to easily expand by simply changing the closures; and (2) they suffered from a lot of the same diseases Americans do – gout, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. For the Poles, meat was king, and lots of it - beef, fish, poultry, in roughly that order of preference. Poles also were big fans of sweet & sour in the same dish.

    Ukrainians like a lot of vegetable-only dishes, due to long religious practice. Lithuanians were sometimes called ‘beet eaters' (behind their backs, of course), due to the preponderance of that item in their national cuisine. Queen Bona Sforza (the Italian-born Queen of Zygmunt I [ruled 1506 - 1548]), introduced many new vegetables into the commonwealth, including celery, lettuce and leeks.


    Bigos (Hunter's Stew) – Polish

    This is one of those archetypal national dishes that cookbooks are incomplete without. There are as many varieties of this dish as there are of people who make it. Usually, it is made in big quantities, and is best when slowly put together and cooked over the course of two or more days. It easily converts into a crock pot recipe, which will torture you for hours with its delicious smells until finished! However, my recipe is designed to make enough for a couple of meals for a family of three, or could serve single servings up to 10. It is also designed to be made in one day. I made this one Christmas Eve, and fed six, and had plentiful leftovers, which I froze for later. It gets better each time you re-heat it. This thick, hearty dish is traditionally served in the fall and winter.

    There is no ‘wrong' way to make it (old Grandma's protestations to the contrary), as long as you make it with a lot of meat and some sauerkraut. If you think about it this way, my explanation makes sense: it's what hunters would eat in the field, making it from the meat and vegetables they had at hand. They'd throw it in a pot and let it stew slowly all day while out on the trail, and then eat it in camp that night, with friends and firelight. If more guests show up, just add more sauerkraut to the pot to stretch it!

    Hunters also would add game, but this is a big variable that can drastically alter the flavor of the dish. Here in Michigan , we have a plentiful White Tail deer population. I have added this to my Bigos twice; once it was a great addition, and once it wrecked it. This is because a major staple food for deer here is either corn (in the Southern part of Michigan, where corn fields are plentiful) or Pine products (in the upper part of lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, where there is less organized farming). So if you have access to game that is farm raised, or are sure it hasn't eaten unsavory things, then by all means add it to your stew.

    Some recipes add slightly more water so it is like stew, while Dembinska ( Maria Dembinska, Food and Drink In Medieval Poland: Rediscovering a Cuisine of the Past. Trans by Magdalena Thomas, revised and updated by William Woys Weaver, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1999) calls for it to be cooked very dry, since the tradition for serving it is for it to be served to newly arrived travelers on dry toast. Dembinska also calls for no tomato paste; however, my recipe uses it and I love the earthy flavor it provides.

    One thing Dembinska and I agree on is that the meats absolutely must be roasted over an open fire That's the best way to get that smoked and open fire flavor. An alternate to open flames is cooking it in the oven under the broiler, with a pan to catch the drippings (if you use this method, add the drippings to the pot as well). However, if the weather absolutely won't co-operate, you may cook the meat in a pan and slowly add scant ¼ teaspoons of the product called “Liquid Smoke” until the desired slightly smoked flavor is achieved. My recipe gives directions for preparing the meat in a pan over the stove. Alternate directions for cooking the meat over an open fire are provided at the end of this recipe.

    Finally, many versions of this recipe call for Juniper berries (Juniper berries are a popular spice in traditional Polish cooking). Be careful! I found out the hard way (on Christmas Eve) that I was allergic to them, and spent all of Christmas Day with my pulse rocketing along at 100 beats a minute (Juniper berries can act like a natural Digitalis). So if you are allergic to Gin, don't add Juniper berries.



    1 16 ounce jar of sauerkraut
    1 stick of butter or margarine
    2 dried mushrooms (optional)
    ½ teaspoon of salt
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1 teaspoon marjoram
    1 teaspoon of finely ground parsley
    3 bay leaves
    1 teaspoon basil
    ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
    ¼ teaspoon allspice
    ½ teaspoon winter savory
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    3 tablespoons paprika (Hungarian for a sweet, mild flavor; Spanish for an earthy, spicy flavor)
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    One 6 ounce can of tomato paste
    1 tablespoon sugar
    6-8 dried, pitted prunes
    1 very small – small head of cabbage
    2 large green apples
    2 medium carrots
    2 medium tomatoes
    1 medium onion
    5 cups water
    ½ lb. each of: boneless stewing beef, pork, venison*, smoked ham, smoked Polish sausage (Kielbasa).

    * Venison is commonly used in Poland, but if good venison (deer meat) is not available, you can substitute an additional ½ lb. of stewing beef, or ¼ lb. each of beef and smoked bacon, diced into large pieces.


    You will need a big, deep baking pot, like a Dutch oven. Alternately, you can make it in a big stew pot on the stove. I have done it both ways, and the baked version is far superior.



    1) Preheat oven to 325°F.

    2) Place sauerkraut in a colander to drain. Using your hands, squeeze out most of the liquid (I like a small amount of the brine in the Bigos). Chop into small pieces.

    3) Melt half the stick of butter or margarine in a large skillet. Add sauerkraut, mushrooms, salt, pepper, marjoram, parsley, bay leaves, basil, cayenne, caraway seeds, allspice, winter savory, paprika, garlic, tomato paste and sugar. Sautee for 10 minutes over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside.

    4) Chop prunes into small pieces. Core, wash and shred the cabbage. Peel, core and chop apples into bite sized pieces. Peel and grate carrots. Chop tomatoes and onion (after peeling it) into small pieces.

    5) Place water and all the ingredients from step 4 in a Dutch Oven. Cover and put on the middle rack of the oven to begin cooking.

    6) Cut all meat into bite sized pieces. Put flour in a clean paper bag. Place all cubes of meat (except ham and sausage (and bacon, if used) into the bag, about a ¼ pound at a time, and shake to coat meat.

    7) Melt remaining butter or margarine in a large skillet or heavy pot and brown meat from step 6 on all sides (again, except ham and sausage (or bacon), over medium – high heat.

    8) Add meat, ham, sausage (and bacon) and sauerkraut mixture from step 3 to Dutch Oven and mix well.

    9) Return stew to oven and cook for 2 to 2 ½ hours or until meat is tender.

    10) Serve stew hot in individual bowls along with bread and rice (or instead of rice, for the modern palate, mashed potatoes).

    Open fire meat cooking alternative, for preparing the bulk of the recipe in your house –

    In place of steps 6 & 7, prepare all of the meat by cooking over an open fire (do not dice the bacon until after you brown it slightly), until it is half way done. Remove the meat, cut into bite sized pieces (dice the bacon now), and proceed to step 8.

    Serves 8 – 10.


    Simple Borscht –Ukrainian


    1 medium onion, sliced thin
    1 cup celery, chopped coarse
    3 lbs. beets, peeled and sliced thin (about ¼" thick)
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    ½ cup sugar
    1 egg
    2 Tablespoons chopped dill
    ¼ cup sour cream
    3 quarts water
    1 tablespoon lemon juice



    1) Add water to a medium to large sized stew pot, bring to a rolling boil.

    2) Put onion, celery and beets in boiling water. Return to boil, cover pot, reduce heat and simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, until beets are tender.

    3) Add salt & sugar to pot during step 2.

    4) Beat egg thoroughly into 1 cup of the hot liquid, then add slowly to the rest of the borscht.

    5) Stir in lemon juice.

    6) Remove from heat when beats are tender.

    7) Sprinkle with dill.

    8) Serve with sour cream; hot in winter, cold in summer.


    Serves 8 – 9


    "Period" Buttons Fast, Easy, and Cheap

    By Mordak Timofeyvich Rostovskogo

    As a Russian costumer one of my biggest initial hurdles was finding period looking round or egg shaped "buttons" on posts. I tried using thread, including quilting thread and dental floss as attachments to the garment but always I had problems with wear. Finally, I was at a jewelry making shop and overheard a class being taught on making drop earrings and realized, "those could also be my buttons". Five minutes of observation later I was buying wire earring posts (1" - 1.5" long), beads and cloisinette balls (17 th century but I like them!). A trip to a hardware store for a small needle-nosed pliers later and I was in front of my TV, my materials in my lap and my feet propped up, ready to get creative!

    The earring posts I prefer are the ones with a flat round head like a nail, but if you want a dangling tassel off the button, get the kind with the loop for a head! I generally use a smaller bead followed by the larger bead on the earring post. The smaller beads have a smaller diameter hole than the larger beads and a stone or glass bead adds a nice weight that lets you see the design on the larger bead part clearer.

    To finish off the button, bend the earring post wire 90 degrees to the side to snug the two beads together tight. Then, use the needle nosed pliers to gradually crimp the wire into a small circle at the back. Guesstimate how much wire is needed to stick back into the large bead hole, with enough to touch the other side of the large bead from the inside. Snip off the excess and feed the wire back into the hole, forming a small loop at the back of the button for the attachment. You will need the extra wire inside as insurance against it being pulled out partially while in use on the garment.  

    I have made buttons out of glass, stone, amber, metal, necklace parts, etc. using this method for my garments and commission pieces. Freshwater pearls wear badly and start chipping out at the holes because they are just mucus and sand but everything else had worked extremely well! I highly recommend Fire Mountain Jewelry online as their customer service, prompt delivery and specials on quantity are top notch!



  • I just read a story by Richard Hakluyt written in 1589 (translated) called Discovery of Muscovy from the Project Gutenburg site. I believe it's an extract from “The Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries made by the English Nation.” I thought it was an interesting story, the account of an early embassy to Russia from England in the mid 16th Century in two ships. Beginning with a tragedy at sea in the first pages which resulted in the death of Sir Hugh Willoughbie and his crew, and continues with the account of Richard Chancellor's trip and embassy over perhaps 15 or so years, and descriptions of what he got out of the experience, almost in diary form. It includes some correspondence between Ivan the Terrible, and Edward VI (who died during the beginning of the embassy)

    I also thought it was a little inaccurate in some areas. Considering it's an Englishman's first encounter with a strange culture, and the story of the beginning of England's formal relationship with Russia, I thought it was very interesting though. Just wanted to share that with the group. I found it while browsing for a book on Heraldry by Gerard Leigh from the 1560's (which isn't there) and just started browsing to see what I could see, and I recognized Hakluyt. The link I had was etext/4076

    – Orderic


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