Varenyky is an everyday dish. I cannot remember not eating it, as both Mum and my late Grandma Sara made it a lot. I grew up in a dormitory-style apartment in Communist Russia and my mother used to cook varenyky in the communal kitchen. There were five floors and 10 families on each floor, with one family per room.
I came to Australia with Grandma in 1992 [a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union] to study nursing. I was 19 and looking for a better life. I am an only child and I really missed my mum, and cooking varenyky made me think of home. I lived with Grandma until Mum immigrated to Australia in 1996 and we made varenyky all the time. Grandma passed away in 2004, aged 89. She loved to cook – even in her 80s. I think of her when I make varenyky. It’s comfort food and it reminds me of Russia.
Interview by Carla Grossetti. Photography by Katie Kaars.