Victoria group attempts pierogi-making world record
The online event will raise money for Ukraine
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The online event will raise money for Ukraine
This feature was produced with financial support by LIFESUPPORT. This article was independently produced by our team of journalists, held to strict journalistic standards, and LIFESUPPORT did not approve or review the work.
To Bella Montgomery, a second generation Ukrainian-Canadian, the smell of pierogies boiling will always smell like home. She grew up watching her parents and grandparents make pierogies in their kitchens, watching as her father cut the dough into squares and her mother sauteed onions on the stove.
This tradition, she says, has been in her family since 1863. The first pierogi Montgomery ever made was shaped in her four-year-old hands as she sat on her grandfather’s knee.
Montgomery has made pierogies for 50 years now. Still, the scents and familiar rhythms of the process tug at old memories whenever she makes a batch.
“When I'm making smaller batches at home for myself and I'm mixing it by hand, I swear I see my mom's thumb [helping to mix],” Montgomery said.
“It’s just the strangest kind of comforting, weird [thing], but it happens quite a lot. There's a lot of great memories, a lot of great connections to that process.”
On May 29, Montgomery will teach others how to make her family’s pierogi recipe to raise funds for Soroptimist International’s disaster relief fund to provide relief to Ukrainians affected by the war. Tickets for the Pierogies for Ukraine event are on sale for $30, with all proceeds going directly to Ukrainian relief.
It won’t be her first time leading online classes; Montgomery has taught many locals how to make traditional pierogies through her business, Perogie Pinchers of Victoria, both in person and, since the pandemic, online. Her favourite moment of these lessons is always watching her students’ faces light up as they realize how to make their own pierogies.
“It's the best feeling in the world,” she said. “It's just magic.”
Using her skill in pierogi-making to benefit the people of Ukraine, she said, was “a no-brainer.”
“It really hit me when I was watching the news one time,” Montgomery said. “Just seeing this great big crater and there were bodies, some were young… and I just thought, this is the most horrific thing.”
She reached out right away to the Victoria-West Shore division of Soroptimist International.
“I'm always amazed at how people can kick into gear and make a difference,” said Sharon Fisher, the BC-based former president of Soroptimist International.
Fisher spent part of her tenure as president in Romania, working on a project to bring aid to refugees in the area. The project helped refugees get vocational training and job placements to get them on the path to citizenship, and helped children get trauma counseling.
Fisher has witnessed the disproportionate violence women face as migrants fleeing crises, and knows there will be a long road ahead for those impacted by the war in Ukraine.
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Already, Soroptimist groups in Europe have come together to help Soroptimist members and other refugees from Ukraine get out of the country, find a safe place to stay, and have access to food. These relief efforts will be supported and expanded by donations that come in through Pierogis for Ukraine.
Montgomery has been overwhelmed by the support she’s received so far in bringing this fundraiser together, with members from countries including Denmark promoting the event and encouraging others to attend. She can’t wait to teach others how to make the perfect pierogi, just as her grandfather taught her.
“It's been such a collaboration of love and of people just banding together to do the right thing,” Montgomery said. “I'm so proud of my community and I'm so proud of Soroptimist.”
Montgomery will lead the two-hour live video event from her home in Greater Victoria, but says that members of Soroptimist International, a volunteer organization with chapters in over 120 countries, have already begun signing up to cook along with her from across the globe.
She has reached out to the Guinness Book of World Records, and hopes to set a new world record for the largest number of people online to make perogies at one time. The online event has the capacity for 1000 people to attend, an ambitious ceiling that Montgomery hopes to come close to.
The significance of the world record attempt, to Montgomery, isn’t about the potential acclaim. She hopes it would encourage an ongoing annual tradition fueled by competition and a desire to help others.
“Then we can say, ‘Let’s have more fundraisers, let's do something for somebody else, and let's beat that record,” she said.