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St Nicholas Church - TravelStorys

Elmira Back Story Tour

Location Trip Time Travel Type
New York 1 hour

St Nicholas Church

Narrator: Welcome to New York Back Story where you can hear stories about local traditions. St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church has been the anchor of Elmira's Ukrainian community for over a century. Established in 1895, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church original location was at West 14th St. and Parkwood Avenue. In 1958, the church relocated to its present-day location at McCanns Boulevard. Beginning in 1956, the women in the parish began making homemade pyrohy in order to cover the debts of constructing the parish you are currently looking at. Since then, the "pyrohy team" has sustained the church financially through regular pyrohy and halupki sales. The "pyrohy team" spans generations, and welcomes participation from outside the parish as the parish's size dwindles. Hear church historian, Maria L'Amroix talk about the parish's bustling years, how the team continues to keep the church thriving in a time when many local congregations are consolidating, and what makes their pyrohy the best is New York State! Hello, my name is Maria Dowzycky L'Amoreaux. I was born in 1947. And my parents came to this country in 1955. So I've been a member of this parish since 1955. And of course, church was instrumental, because that's where your people were. They were the ones that, you know, spoke your language, they knew the culture, and they totally embraced us. The story was this, I think her name was Anna, she brought a few pyrohy, and she sold them. And I think the first profit was $2 and some cents. And then, of course, it grew because then the ladies actually would make them at home, you could do that at the time. They would bring them to the hall and people would come as soon as the word got out. You know, that's how they did it. And then eventually, I would say in 1961 we had a new pastor. Father Dowhovich left, and then when father Myschyshyn came, he started a fund to erect this church and the pyrohy were instrumental in that. They decided they were going to make them collectively here together. And as a child, I remember that. You know, my mother coming here, working here standing, and father Myschyshyn used to go pick the ladies up because they didn't drive. We don't call them pierogies anyway. Their real name is vareniki, boiled ones. Vareniki or pyrohy. It's the original recipe for what 60 some years now. No matter when we made them, the ingredients were terrific. Real potatoes, which we peel. If we're going to make them on Thursday, we peel the day before on Wednesday. Then we keep them in cold water in the chiller until Thursday. We still do our onions and we cook them in butter and we bake them you know, so they're caramelized. Because you can't have them. They can't be crunchy. I mean, that's the instructions we were left. And we still have Mrs Tepluch. And she's the last of the day ladies. She's 94 she's the one that makes the dough. We have a dough maker, but she's the one that knows the ingredients. And she knows when it's time to take the dough out. And she makes 13 batches of dough. And they're very fussy about their flour. It can't just be any all purpose, it has to be the high gluten you know, and they have eggs and everything. It's homemade pasta. And then the tables are all spread out here. The dough has to rest of course; it has to be babied. And then another batch of ladies come in and they mash the potatoes and they use really good cheese. I mean everything is you know, there's nothing artificial in those. Ours are really good because we use one single round of dough, we stretch it by hand, all the ladies stretch them. Put the ball in and then we pinch away. And it has to be pinched by hand. It just does. It's not solely for Ukrainians now. Population dwindles, we have fewer and fewer workers. I know my own son is involved. We would love to have the people join us. And those of us that have stayed here, we're not about to give it up. Those perogies have paid for all of this. They paid for the hall, they paid for the church. And they paid for much more. Because in essence the public has helped us because when they come and support us, then they support the church. So it's more than a pierogi church. It is a church supported on the backs of people who broke their back to make those. It's going to have to be something really tough. You know, to get us to stop, we can't lose this. The place is beautiful. They worked so hard for this and it's that labor of love. And we continue that because whatever we can do to continue what they started, we're going to do. Call 607.734.2232 to order your own pyrohy and for information regarding pick-up days and times. More information about the parish is available at Ready for more stories? Continue on the Elmira BackStory tour. This tour was funded by the NY State Council on the Arts and the Robert Gardiner Foundation. The tour was curated by TC Owens of The Arts Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.

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