The Run Down

Chicago's history has been shaped by different waves of immigrants from all over the world, and we're celebrating part of that history with a visit to Chicago's Ukrainian Village neighborhood. This neighborhood has been a central hub for Ukrainian-American's since the first mass migration of immigrants in 1870.  Our trip to has us taking in Ukrainian food, art, and history on this three-stop guide.  Here are the highlights.

1. Art appreciation @ Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

2. Food appreciation @ Tryzub

3. History appreciation @ Ukrainian National Museum

1. Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art

Right in the heart of Ukrainian Village is the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, which has been a bedrock of the community since 1971.While the museum today is housed in a large and bright contemporary space, that wasn’t the case when it first started out on the top two floors of a modest three-flat brownstone.

Though the museum’s original mission was to promote the Ukrainian diaspora, you’ll see exhibits from non-Ukrainian and Ukrainian artists alike.  Here are some other notes about the museum.

– Open Wed – Sunday from 12pm – 4pm
– Admission is Free
– The museum also hosts a number of events every month including lectures, concerts, and artist talks

Since it’s start over 40 years ago, the museum now has the largest collection of Ukrainian-American art in the world.

2. Tryzub

For our next stop, we’ll continue our consumption of Ukrainian culture, but this time in food form.  We’re headed to Tryzub restaurant at the corner of Leavitt St. and Chicago Ave. If you’re curious of the name, Tryzub means trident in Ukrainian, and it’s a proud symbol of Ukrainian national identity. Keeping on with the same theme as our previous spot, this restaurant has a mix of traditional Ukrainian cuisine and some dishes with a modern American twist. Decorated throughout the restaurant are historical Ukrainian artifacts behind glass, and on each of the tables there is a fact sheet with a timeline of important events throughout Ukraine’s history. Here are some interesting tidbits we picked up along with some other notes for your visit.

– Ukraine’s history is a story of constant struggle for governing and cultural independence.

–  A law passed in Russia in 1876 called the Ems Ukaz, made it illegal to publish or import books in the Ukrainian language.  At the time, the Russian interior minister famously declared, “the Ukrainian language never existed, does not exist, and shall never exist.”

Now let’s get down to food. A whole section of their menu is dedicated to the Ukrainian-style pierogis, which they make by hand daily. This is their seafood pierogi, which we were able to see them make through their partially open kitchen.

Scanning around the room, there were several groups of Ukrainian diners and all of them got a bowl of borshch. We obviously followed suit and were not disappointed.  It’s a beet soup with lentils, cabbage and a dollop of sour cream. It’s rich and has a mix of sour and sweet, and a particularly good choice for a cold day.

This platter of smoked fish was served on a long wooden serving plate with beets, potatoes, and bread on the side. Add them all together to construct the ultimate bite.

3. Ukrainian Museum

Our last stop is the Ukrainian National Museum a few blocks away. After getting a short history lesson at Tryzub, we’re here to get the full story. Here are some notes about the place to help plan your trip.

– Open Thur- Sunday from 11am – 4pm

– Cost is $10, which will basically get you a personal tour. There is no tour schedule — just show up and somebody will show you around.

The museum is right across the street from Saints Volodymry & Olha Catholic church, one of three Ukrainian churches in the neighborhood. If you find yourself turned around trying to get to the museum, just walk towards these huge golden domes. There are 8 different exhibits featuring a folk art collection of more than 10,000 pieces.

History can be tragic and one of their exhibits is dedicated to the historical documentation of more recent 20th century events including the genocide of millions of Ukrainians through a man-made famine carried out by the Soviet government.

Here’s a short but a very important message about this last exhibit. The Hutsuls, Ukrainians from the Carpathian Mountains believe the fate of the world depends upon the pysanka, a Ukrainian Easter egg decorated with these traditional folk designs. They believe a terrible and evil serpent who is chained to a cliff will overrun the world if the custom of egg decorating ends. So for the sake of humanity, please come by and prevent the end of the world.