Our good friend, Yulie Seydoux, recently responded to questions from a student who was given the assignment of interviewing someone from another culture.
What is your history? What is your home of origin? Why did you or your family settle in the area.
I have a gypsy soul. I'm from Ukraine, western Ukraine, from the Carpathian mountains, near Hungary. I always liked the United States. I liked the openness and friendliness of the American people. I've always been kind of weird. I can be myself here. In Ukraine, it's strange to say hello to someone on the street. They would be like, "What the heck?" Only kids can do that. They're friendly here. So I found a way to come here. There was a summer work program at Silver Dollar City, and once done there, I decided to stay.
What are some of your family customs and roles of members within your family?
Our family is not very traditional. We don't have a lot of old traditions. Christmas is kind of different. We celebrate it on the 7th of January. You need to have 12 dishes. One of the twelve dishes is kutya; it's wheat grains, with pieces of a flower, and nuts, and something really sweet that you don't have. It looks disgusting, but it's good. When the first star appears on the 6th, we can eat. Then little kids come to the house, singing, usually dressed as angels. Some dress as kings and act out the Gospel. And we all go to church and sing songs that night.
How closely do you identify with and affiliate with your culture? How assimilated into the mainstream culture are members of your family and how well is that accepted by the rest of the family?
I never felt Ukrainian. I always wanted to be French but knew I was American really. There are some things Ukrainians do and think that I never did or could. The rest of my family is pretty well assimilated, pretty well Ukrainian. But they supported me when I went to America.
What are the gender roles in your culture? And in your family?
Gender roles are mostly the same. But women are expected to know how to cook, how to sew, and how to embroider--embroidery for making our national clothes. Women usually are working, though, not a lot of housewives. Guys are jerks, though. They have super big expectations for women, and feel entitled. They will openly criticize the weight of the women in their lives. Very concentrated on appearance. Men are gentlemen more here. Of course, it's the modern world; everywhere there are similarities.
What are your family beliefs about child rearing and discipline?
My Dad would drill me on geography or history or languages, and had a tutor for me, teaching me French, English, and Polish. My Dad said he was training me, like a dog, but this was a joke. He had a big world map, and I needed to know every place. He would teach me martial arts, and I would train hard. He wanted excellence, but he would encourage me. My Mom, on the other hand, spoiled me. She wanted me to be a lady. When I would come home from a fight at school, Dad would cheer, and Mom would say, "But Yulie, you're a lady." I was their treasure. I am their treasure.
What would be the characteristics and practices of people who are considered to be excellent parents in your culture?
Parental expectations are similar to here. But kids live with their parents much longer in Ukraine, and families typically stay geographically close. Also, all kids are expected to go to university in Ukraine, and the parents pay for it.
What is the power structure in your family? Is age a factor in who has power? How are decisions made at the family and community level?
I am an only child. My parents are separated, so I am the authority. Age is not a factor in our family's power structure. But growing up, everything had to be approved by my Dad. My Mom would listen to my opinions more, but my Dad would have to approve. He is really strict. When I made the decision to move to the U.S., though, they told me to listen to my heart.
Who holds positions of formal power in your culture? Who are the most powerful informal leaders in your community? Who held positions of power in the past?
We have a president, but his power is only technical, because if we don't like it, we will have riots. We have to respect elders. In Ukraine, we have two "yous." To elders, we always have to say the respectful "you." Priests are respected in the community. In the past, power belonged to a really bad president who ran away when we had a riot--a Russian bitch, who had golden toilet seats in his house.
What is your concept of health? What are customary health practices and beliefs? Who is responsible for and influences health care? Do you use home or folk remedies, a healer, shaman or some other traditional or spiritual healer?
I guess, in villages, they have folk remedies. In my family, when we got sick, they would put something on our foreheads, like a compressor. My Grandma would put alcohol from lilies on my face for acne. She said it worked, but it never worked. In Ukraine, they are superstitious. Instead of saying, "You're beautiful," they would say, "You're ugly," so you wouldn't get sick, but it meant, "You're so beautiful." And your family would suck your face in a cross and spit, to take away negative energy.
Here the interview abruptly ends, and right at the intriguing part about sucking face in a cross and spitting! But apparently it worked, because you'd be hard-pressed to find any negative energy coming from this beautiful soul. And I'm grateful that Yulie gave me permission to share this brief interview with you.
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