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Click here to listen to [Holding Things Together.mid]

Music by Harry Todd


Come in! Make yourself comfortable. Feel the heat radiating from the coal stove. Have a warm cup of chai and a piroshki. Smell the Kulich baking. Browse a while and visit with Babushka. She's always willing to share her stories and recipes.

My husband and I descend from the original Kvasnikoff
who settled in Ninilchik with his wife Mavra. Our lovely village is nestled
  in the Heart of the Cook Inlet on the Kenai Peninsula. Ninilchik River winds
  lazily through the village and a vast razor clam beach lies directly in front
  of the river. The Russian church stands as a citadel high above the hamlet.
  The lifestyle is predominately Russian influenced with many links to our Native
  Culture. In Babushka's (grandmother) Country you will find cultural poetry,
  stories, recipes, photographs, language, and history.

My Babushka’s 

My great-grandmother, Elizabeth

Kvasnikoff Cooper Churkin,

Great-Grandma Irene Kvasnikoff-Kelly

Notice her fur boots!





The Kenai River in Cooper Landing 
which is named after Joseph Cooper!

Photo copyright property of Bill Hutchinson.  Check his site for more Alaska Scenery.

Elizabeth Kvasnikoff married Joseph Cooper, a mining engineer mentioned in books on the history of mining in Alaska. Cooper Landing, Alaska, is named after Joseph. Today it is a popular fly fishing area and nearby is the Interpretive site of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. Elizabeth and Joseph lived in Ninilchik where she operated a roadhouse (before roads) and became famous for her hospitality as well as the pies and pastry she baked in her coal stove. Since many of Agrafena's children are wonderful hostesses and cooks. Their recipes are often modern versions of traditional village cuisine.

Harry Leman and son, Butch Leman at the 
"Ninilchik School on the Hill" 
class reunion!  Although Harry has left us
 we will always remember Harry's wonderful voice!
Harry Leman and David Cooper were the first two
people to graduate from Ninilchik High School.  

The people of Ninilchik loved to sing and dance. My great-uncles crafted mandolins and other instruments by hand. Often dances were held at the schoolhouse. Sometimes folks would carry lanterns and climb the icy hill following or chaperoning their children to the dances. Music was always "live" and performed by the men of the village. Of course entertainment stopped for the seven Lenten weeks before Pascha.

Erling Kvasnikoff and Butch Leman at
the Anniversary Party of :
Bill and Alice Bouwens
David and Wanda Cooper.

The following song tells of the love people of the Cook Inlet Region have for Salmon. Although humpy is not as popular as King, we do love a hearty humpy soup laced with fresh turnip greens and new potatoes. I don't know whom, in the village, wrote this but I grew up with the lilting melody. If you are a tourist and catch one of Hobo Jim's or Butch Leman's performances you are sure to hear it. The Pink Salmon is commonly called Humpback Salmon. Alaskans also call them Humpy or Pink.  The tune is sang to the melody of "Turkey in the Straw".

 Humpback Salmon

(An old Ninilchik Song)

Author unknown:

I like humpback salmon

Good ole humpback salmon

Caught by Ninilchik Fishermen

I like clams and shellfish

They sure make a swell dish

Caught by Ninilchik Fishermen

I don't like T-bone steak

Cut from a steer in Texas

Just give me fish

An' I don't give a darn

If I do pay taxes

I like Humpback salmon

Good ole Humpback Salmon

Caught by Ninilchik Fishermen!

One of the special times in the village was when the first king salmon was caught in the Spring. It tasted so good and would be shared all around the town.

Before 1959, when Alaska became a state, many Ninilchik men used fish traps for harvesting fish. Since statehood they have fished with nets.


As the Homesteader's came to Agrafena's land culture and landscape began to alter. Roads brought people and humanity created change to Ninilchik. As we emerged into the modern world lingering memories remain. A few years ago driving through Ninilchik tears came to my eyes as I remembered the paradise I once knew. The piles of driftwood have moved way for camper parking. Man changed the mouth of the river and the slough disappeared. The swinging bridge across the slough is only a memory as is the old wooden bridge across the river. The artesian spring no longer belongs to my family. Grandmother is 92 and nearly blind. The log home is gone. Note: My husband and I would appreciate email from anyone who has ever played the game of mumbly peg. We are sure it was imported into the village.


Bobbie Oskolkoff

When with the evening tide

I take my thoughts in stride

Where's the driftwood lying in the sand?

Forever gone, the language of the land

Where's the silence I once knew?

Whatever happened to the slough?

Porcupines gnawing on the bark

Noisy owls hooting in the dark

Lone coyotes howling in the night

Silly spruce-hen's troubled flight

Remember if you dare

Rainy days without a care

Stirring ashes with a poker

Strips of salmon in the smoker

Frying trout in cast iron pan

Eatin' razor clams from a can

Tyshee hanging on a tree

Halibut fresh from the sea

Big green yoke upon my back

Splashing water, too much slack

Playhouse under big spruce bough

I wonder if I could fit there now?

Little silly games of mumbly peg

Butter, cornbeef, salmon in a keg

Poochkie* burns upon my face

Canning salmon by the case

Gathering mushrooms by the dozen

And playing cannery with my cousin

Picking blueberries by the score

Spilled the bucket, pick some more

Root cellars deep with-in the hill

Clear spring water, drank my fill

Painful digging of petroshki* patch

Horrid mosquitoes scratch scratch

Old time memories linger in my mind

Where's the world I can no longer find

Gathering coal upon the beach

Babushka* baking sweet Kulich*

Soakin' in galvanized washtub,

Or in the Bahnya,* gotta scrub

Cutting hay with a scythe*

From a saucer sipping chai*

Canned butter with booleetchki*

Haunting memories set me free

Copyright 1994 update 1997

*TysheeThe people used the word "tyshee" for dried fish or more commonly in Ninilchik "dried fish tails."

*Petroshkiis the Russian word for turnips. Petroshka is one turnip.

*Poochkiis the Ninilchik word for wild celery, apparently derived from the Russian word for 'bunches of flowers'. The large whitish heads on these tall plants with stalks (that look much like celery and taste like it also) are striking. Poochki requires knowledge in harvesting or painful blisters develop on your face and hands. Rarely does a child from Ninilchik grow up without experiencing this malady at least once. Dried poochki makes wonderful "swords" and sword fighting competitions were common amongst the children. The child with the strongest poochki always won.

*Mumbly Peg is a game using skills acquired with a pocketknife. The looser pulls a 'peg' (that has been pounded deeper into the ground every time you miss) out with his teeth. Mainly a boys game but in my day the girls began to play with great skill.

*Kulich (kooleech) is the Russian word for Easter Bread.

*Scythe is pronounced 'sigh' by the villagers.

*Chai is the Russian word for tea.

*Booleetchki is the word for homemade (bread) rolls.

*Bahnyais the word for a little outbuilding converted into a steambath. Heated with wood (using some type of stove) until the surrounding rocks are hot and finally pouring hot water on the rocks to create steam. Some of Agrafena's children are still using them today.

*Babushka is the Russian word for "grandmother."