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The Right Mixture

Time 0:03:54


As a child, I spoke only Icelandic until I began school in grade one. I grew up knowing that Icelanders were expected to marry Icelanders. When my cousin arranged a blind date for a Christmas social and I found out he was Ukrainian. I gasped! My date said, "Would you like to dance? I hear Icelanders like to waltz." Rigid as a pole, filled with intrepidation I got up to waltz..and so began my new life.

When I told my family we were dating, they were distressed. My side said, "Don`t tell me you`re going to marry one of those who live in the garden and have dogs that bark at the gate." His side said, "From this day forward there will be no more talking about the wars between the Icelanders and the Ukrainians." What a challenge we faced!

In some aspects our cultures seemed very different. Determined to overcome these issues we worked together to create a melded family.

Language was the most worrisome. When we received company from Iceland, everyone spoke Icelandic except my husband. My family accepted him but forgot that language was a barrier. I too had the experience of sitting in a room with only Ukrainian being spoken. I quickly experienced being family but not totally included. After several incidences of this, I fled the house in tears, and told my husband this could not happen again.

Because of this, we spoke only English with our children. We didn’t want a house divided. Where I grew up memorizing Icelandic poetry and music, they took up Ukrainian dancing and Icelandic choir. The costumes were so different from each other, but I noticed the shoes were the same from both cultures. We discovered that as we focused on these two aspects, we began to appreciate each other’s ethnicity even more.

Christmas was a good time for our children, no doubt. The Ukrainians labored to produce twelve meatless dishes for supper on Christmas Eve. The meal always began before five o’clock or the rising of the first star. After that the gifts were opened. The dessert would be Icelandic in nature with hot chocolate, vina terta, rulapylsa and jola kokur.

When my son married, the bride was Icelandic. I found myself introducing her to the Ukrainian culture. Their Christmas held two meals – one meatless and the other with smoked, cured lamb. Not to mention another set of gifts!

Coming from a dual cultural family, my children worked hard to find the commonalities not the differences. My daughter became a music teacher. When she moved to a Mennonite area to teach, she was able to connect with the kids across different language, religion, and customs. My son serves as the deputy mayor in Gimli. There are 49 different cultures in the area, and he practices tolerance and acceptance with everyone.

My early misconceptions have all been erased. We have learned to adapt to each others needs across cultures. The communities and I have grown together.

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