Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Russian Egg War...or  Easter in the Rear View

Posted by:  Bob Marcinuk

As another bunny holiday bites the dust and chocolate foiled rabbits are tucked away in drawers to feebly attempt to avoid a terminal sugar rush, there remains only the eggs.  Those colored eggs that look so perfect on the panels of food dye boxes reside as neurotic tie-dyed wonders in the refrigerator because the fun is in the creating, not in the eating.  Moms frantically google search for those easy to prepare but absolutely delicious hardboiled egg recipes that have somehow eluded them in years past.  Don’t bother.  They just don’t exist. 

If this sounds familiar…it should.  If you are honest with yourself, you’ll admit that it happened to you at one time or another.  It kind of makes you reflect a bit…wondering if it has always been this way.  When I paused just before Easter this year, my thoughts took me to a place in childhoods past.  Simpler times? Maybe. More traumatizing, definitely!

Coming from a Russian lineage, holidays were always filled with traditional stories.  Knowing the characters in my family and their propensity to intermingle honored historic values with old wives tales (called something that sounds like “bikkies”), I am not at all certain that this tale is 100% accurate. But hey, somehow it managed to survive the centuries in my family…tattered and frayed a bit for sure.

After a frantic last week at NAN, our team of Jamila, Ellen and Margie were ripe for this story that I have held in reserve for some time now…and yes, props helped to hold their attention. 
The prop?  Eggs boiled in a traditional ornate Russian cauldron with 2 lbs of onion skins! The result….a deep, rich rust color that challenged that of bricks in intensity. 

Each participant was asked to prepare for the Russian Egg War by carefully selecting an egg that would hopefully endure the rigors of battle.  With an egg firmly held by each, I watched them morph from grown women into mesmerized little girls in anticipation of the tale....

The original Russian Egg War was held many centuries ago between two feuding kingdoms which had ravaged each other for generations.  The destruction of villages, livestock and humanity was devastating to both for as far back as anyone could remember.  It was the sole reason why neither had grown in strength or evolved as a people because they were always were rebuilding. Although the specific details escape me, it was this one year on the eve of an Easter battle that Czar Nikta (the warm and benevolent ruler) proposed to his adversary Czar Bautrus (the devious and malicious monarch) a simple solution to their endless plight.  He proposed that they war with hard boiled eggs instead of swords.  They would both tap eggs and the czar whose egg broke, would give up his empire in it’s entirety to the winning egg bearer.  Surprisingly, the agreement came easily and sealed, with a locked arm shot of vodka.

Onion skin dyed eggs were used…and each czar, carefully selected his weapon with the help of their generals.  The selection process took over two hours and there was much taunting and jeering emanating from the troops.  The battle was about to begin…

It was Czar Bautrus who officially challenged Czar Nikta to the battle giving him the honor of being “the striker”.  As he lifted his egg a mere 2 inches from that of his opponent, he unceremoniously and swiftly struck. Czar Nikta’s egg was broken…..

As the news spread quickly across the armies, the cheers were equally balanced out by the groans.  But, what silenced them all was when Czar Nikta in a very low tone said to Czar Bautrus...“But my egg has two sides….”  And in flipping his egg over said “It is I, Czar Nikta, who now challenges you to war”.  Bautrus snickered boastfully and extended his egg for battle.

The blow came quickly….And now, both czars each had a broken egg!

 As the tale has it, Czar Nikta stood and held his egg over his head to the sky as in thanks to a higher being.  And, it is said that a ray of sun broke through the heavily overcast day and lite on the extended egg!  With that, and feeling fully empowered, Czar Nikta again challenged Czar Bautrus to a war….and gently tapped his opponent’s egg….

The roar of exaltation that arose from both armies was deafening as Czar Bautrus mounted his horse and slowly road into the barren Siberian wasteland in defeat along with two of his closest generals.  Their frozen bodies were discovered 73 years later and the story has it that Czar Bautrus was found with a shattered egg clutched in his right hand.

As for Czar Nikta, history tells us that he went on to be a kind, magnanimous and just ruler who ruled both kingdoms as if they had always been one.  And, ah, I would be remise if I did not point out that Nikta in fact did rightfully earn the title of being the “original good egg”!    

So, in fitting honor of this age old Russian bikkie, we recreated the war of the eggs here at NAN on Good Friday afternoon.  And, I think that it was only fitting that the sole Russian member of our team, won the war!       


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