Archive for November, 2008

Entry for November 11, 2008

November 11, 2008

BRIDGING CULTURAL GAPS

Several years ago I read an article in the Kyiv Post written by a Ukrainian-based American journalist. I don’t remember the journalist’s family name, but his first name was Scott. Scott told about his Ukrainian friend who hadn’t liked Scott throwing away some stale bread into a garbage can. It must be admitted that the Ukrainians (especially the older generation) feel very strongly about bread, the major reason being the famines in their history when millions of people died because they had nothing to eat. The Kyiv Post suggested the readers express their opinion of the article. I decided to put in my two cents worth and became a winner of the Reader’s Retort. The newspaper awarded me with a dinner for two at a restaurant – the chance which I, regrettably, never used.

Here’s my letter to the Editor:

Reader’s Retort

readers@kyivpost.com

Sir,

If Scott has bought a loaf of bread, it is HIS bread and he is free to do with it anything he likes — he may even play baseball with it. However, a person’s life in society presupposes at least a certain degree of feeling and acting along with other people. It’s difficult to draw a parallel with the American customs which are not so deep-rooted in history, but, I think, Scott’s Ukrainian friend who reproved him for throwing away the stale bread felt no less hurt than my American teacher-colleagues would have felt if I had not risen to my feet when the allegiance to the flag was pronounced (though, I must admit that I loved that tradition and somewhere in my “American” archives I have the text of the allegiance which every morning was chanted by my class in a Chicago senior high where I taught Russian). I do not think that anybody would have told me off for my “un-American” behavior, but, definitely, the emotional contact between me and the school — and I treasured that contact very much! — would have been lost.

Sometimes my wife buys a round of Ukrainsky when we haven’t yet finished the bread bought the day before. Resentfully, I keep chewing the “old” bread, throwing envious glances at the fragrant round that is waiting to be consumed (hopefully, not the day after). Here’s a recipe: the stale bread goes down quite OK if you spread some peanut butter on it.

Vitaly Babych

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