The place is St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church on Fillmore Avenue in Buffalo. The time is 7:30 a.m. on Thursday and Friday mornings.
On Thursday morning, Ukrainian women travel from various places in Western New York to St. Nicholas to peel, slice and finely dice 50-100lbs of onions. Next, an equal amount of potatoes are peeled, boiled and mashed. Dozens of heads of cabbage are cooked, in addition to beets and root vegetables. (Did I mentioned the pounds and pounds of flour used to make the dough for the pierogies and the fact that all the peeling and dicing is done by hand? No mandolin slicer or food processor for these ladies.)
On Fridays, even more Ukrainian speaking "pierogy ladies" reassemble to make the pierogies.
The work is done in assembly-line fashion. Two 8-12 foot tables are lined up in a row. At the head of the table sits the dough pincher and there is always only one dough pincher. She is in charge of pinching off just the precise amount of dough for the dough rollers to shape into circles.
The dough rollers sit on either side of the pincher and there are usually 2 or 3 of these women. With thick wooden dowels, they flatten and shape the dough into a circle.
Further down the line, sit a larger number of women. This number changes on a weekly basis. These women are in charge of stuffing each pierogy with the perfect amount of filling.
Everyone works tirelessly until no dough or stuffing remains.
At 11 a.m. sharp, the kitchen at St. Nicholas opens it's doors for business. The phone rings off the hook, and people from miles and miles around appear for take-out orders. Some stay to eat at the large round tables and are served steaming hot food on China plates. No tipping required.
I am so proud to know these women. They assemble each and every Thursday and Friday from September through June to keep Ukrainian traditions alive and the doors of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Church open.
Whether you refer to them as "the pierogy ladies" or "cabbage roll" dolls, what they do is nothing short of amazing.