Russian people love good food, company and celebrations, but we rarely do potlucks.

When you come to our home, expect the best and don’t bring food. You should bring something to drink and flowers for the hostess.

The hostess works hard. She starts with baked goods a couple of nights before the big event.

My mom, for example, will bake baklava and napoleon the night before. She will also make meat jello and fresh pickled goods. Meat jello sounds awful, but it happens to be very popular.

Prior to the party, cold cuts, cheeses, olives and some American appetizers like salsa and chips are served.

The dinner table is set with real dishes and silver. Everyone must sit at the same table, which in my family can include about 15 to 20 people, including older kids.

For big events, like New Years, we make a number of great dishes – baked lamb, mashed potatoes, Olivier salad, vinaigrette salad, golubtzi and more. You can get great food ideas from my friend Lea’s blog at http://leascooking.blogspot.com/

Because my dad’s family is Armenian, we also make grits and a chicken dish in a walnut sauce.

I love holidays with my family. In addition to amazing food, we sing songs, call our family in Russia on Skype, talk about our life in Russia, play cards, dance and just enjoy each other. We end every party – “stuffed,” happy, and ready for another holiday.

This year, the family is excited to watch the Olympic games, held  in our hometown of Sochi, Russia. My mom is actually traveling to Russia later and will be there as the Olympic games end.

I should add that my dad’s family is from Sochi. My mom’s family lived by Rostov, Russia. I was born in a small town next to Sochi, but lived in Sochi as a child.

According to my grandpa (who passed away in 1991), his family moved to Sochi from Turkey, during the Armenian genocide. Forgive me for the lack of detail about that part of our history. I honestly don’t know much. I know that grandpa’s family escaped the Armenian genocide, changed their last name from Keogly to Grigoryan and re-settled in Sochi back in the early 1900s.

My grandpa worked for the Forestry department. Everyone in our family was well educated. Some members of my family served in the Navy. My memories of Russia have faded over the last twenty years, but what I do remember is actually good. While I know that living in Russia was hard, I do recall a good life in Sochi.



Galina Burley, is a long time resident of Vancouver. She is a mother of three and is an immigrant from Russia. After moving to America in 1991 with $50 to their name, Galina's parents relied on her to get a job, learn English, and help them navigate the complexities of their new life in this country. At an early age, Galina became fluent in English, helped her parents start a family business and went to college while working two jobs and raising a family. In addition to her outstanding work as a Manager of a large scale public program, Galina's other accomplishments include: 2013 Golden Ivan Award for Community Building; A President's award from the Oregon Crime Prevention Association for her commitment to Public Safety; The George Robert House, Jr. Award for Outstanding Service (ASPA) for her efforts in community outreach; A recent nomination for the 2013 Distinguished Woman award for her work on diversity and inclusive public policy through the East European Coalition; A Master's Degree in Public Administration; A career in managing large scale programs and services; And an amazing family.

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