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Thunder Bay high school students get taste of Ukrainian culture

A class of Grade 12 students at Sir Winston Churchill high school in Thunder Bay, Ont. got some expert coaching this week, as they learned to make a Ukrainian culinary staple.

Grade 12 students were cooking up a storm at Sir Winston Churchill

Students at Sir Winston Churchill high school in Thunder Bay, Ont. roll out the dough for their pyrohy. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

A class of Grade 12 students at Sir Winston Churchill high school in Thunder Bay, Ont. got some expert coaching this week, as they learned to make a Ukrainian culinary staple. 

Gabriel DaSilvo, 18, said after learning to make pyrohy, he'll definitely give it a try at home. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Over several days, a group of volunteers from the Ukrainian community taught the students how to cook pyrohy (the Ukrainian term for pierogies) — a task that's as much an art as a science.

Cheryl Bain said her family still gets together and makes a big batch of pyrohy each Christmas. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

"Any true Ukrainian will tell you there is no specific recipe for making pyrohy," said Cheryl Bain, one of the volunteers.

"My mom is 96 and I used her recipe and it was all from her head." 

Julia Mills, Chelsey Lokstet, Katelyn Kotanen and Fae Alexander work together at a pyrohy pinching station. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

The students spent Monday boiling potatoes and mixing them with cheese to make the filling. On Tuesday, they learned to make the dough, and pinch the pyrohy into their half-moon shape. 

"It's really obvious that there's a lot of care, and effort put into it, which is cool," said Chelsey Lokstet, who was working with a group of friends to carefully seal the dough around the filling.

The Grade 12 class will share the pyrohy with others at their school. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

The students were preparing about 40 dozen pyrohy, and on Thursday plan to cook them up, and share them with others in the school.

The fun event was organized to complement some more sombre lessons about Ukrainian history happening at the school this week.

On Thursday, the students will get a visit from an educational bus touring the country to raise awareness of the Holodomor, a state-sponsored famine that took place in Ukraine in the 1930s. 

"We wanted to bring awareness to that, but also to encourage the students to find out more about Ukrainian culture ... and we wanted to sort of celebrate Ukrainian culture as well as understand some of their history," said foods and nutrition teacher Suzanne Belcamino. 

The bus will be parked at Sir Winston Churchill on Thursday, and will be open to the public from 3:30 to 7 p.m.