When my mother and her family came to America in the 1980s from Mukacheve, Ukraine, they were limited in what they could take with them. Intent on preserving their culture in their new country, they decided to bring with them a clay wine pitcher and a matching set of cups. Both the pitcher and the cups feature motifs that are commonly found in Carpathian pottery. The motifs consist of scenes of nature and soldiers on horseback. The pitcher would be used to serve wine during special occasions such as birthdays or religious holidays. My mother came to America as a teenager, thus making it easy to become Americanized as she went through most of high school and college in the United States. That combined with my father being from a relatively large city in Moldova, which makes him see the pitcher as having a “folksy” feel, the pitcher seldom makes appearances at my dinner table. However, when we celebrate my grandmother’s birthday, she insists that wine be served in the pitcher as it reminds her of home. It’s in those moments, when the pitcher finally makes its way onto the table, that I feel a strong connection to my heritage and my family’s history.
– Gabriella Birzh