VINELAND — The table in a second-floor classroom at Vineland High School was covered with sweet, gooey treats that involved things such as chocolate, custard, marshmallow and cream.
While they are all yummy, trying to correctly pronounce their names — how about a ptiche moloko? — was anything but easy.
Except, that is, for members of the high school Russian Club. The treats that club members serve up regularly during their meetings have origins in countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan. Club members are using those edible delights to introduce fellow students to their cultures and languages that they said are, for the most part, similar and Russian-based.
More importantly, club members said their organization plays a role in maintaining a community of primarily Russian-speaking families that have immigrated to Vineland over the past several decades.
Junior David Danichkin is 17 years old and came to the United States from Russia about nine years ago. The predominant language spoken in his home remains Russian, he said.
Most of the Russian Club’s members were born in countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.
“The club is what ties us together,” said Audrey Sakhan, a 16-year-old junior from Ukraine.
The high school’s Russian Club is somewhat unique in that it is likely one of only two such school-based organizations in South Jersey, said Vlada Jackson, the club’s adviser. The club is only about 5-years-old, and its membership ranges from about 15 to 20 students annually, said Jackson, who also teaches Russian at the high school.
The 43-year-old Jackson, who moved to the United States from Russia in 1999, said many of the club’s activities involve things such as Russian holy days, music, dance and movies. The club also competes in competitions that involve speaking and reading Russian, something that resulted in club members winning many medals during a recent tournament, she said.
At the school, Jackson said the club strives to teach other students about a Russian culture that involves friendly, warm people.
“There is so much (we have) in common,” she said.
Russian club members will continue to invite other high school students to attend their activities, Jackson said.
Another senior, Nadia Kucher, 17, who is from Ukraine, said those events will likely involve food.
But, she said, not borscht, a traditional soup made from beets — and a dish that may be just too much for some students to take.
“We’ll leave that home,” Kucher said.
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