Sharing in the beauty of cultures
When you are a citizen of the world and you have rich memories of a beautiful set of traditions, sometimes it becomes a calling to help others also embrace the beauty of different countries and their cultures. With this goal in mind, Darya Yatskova created World In A Box, a subscription box company that helps children explore the wider world through fun and educational activities. Darya believes that "Learning about different countries helps kids appreciate cultures and people that are different from them. By exposing children to different opinions, thoughts, and cultural backgrounds, you’re encouraging them to be more open-minded later in life."
Drawing influences from around the world
From a young age, Darya was immersed in both the worlds of her own family, and those of others. Traveling throughout Europe on family vacations as a child and later living in other countries for her studies, Darya made a vast network of connections and memories that continue to shape her understanding of the world today. “I did my Master's in the UK for a year, went for a summer course in Italy, moved to Canada, speak more than one language—Russian, English, Italian and French—and have an international group of friends. I feel some connections to other countries too, I think especially to Italy and France.”
Despite her exposure to so many other languages, countries, and cultures, Darya still feels a deep connection to her personal roots. "Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Tatar—this is my background, where my family members were/are from.”
Finding unity and strength in culture
Darya takes pride in multiple facets of her identity, like her ability to speak Russian. “It's a beautiful and fairly difficult language. I’m proud of the cultural heritage the country has (ballet, lots of great artists, writers, composers). There's a festival held in my home city of Perm called Diaghilev Festival, which is actually an international festival and often attracts people not only from the rest of the country, but from all over the world too.”
Since the beginning of the war, Darya has felt even more connected with her Ukrainian heritage as well. “Whenever my grandad would tell about his childhood or my dad or mom share some stories, it always makes me feel so calm and peaceful and happy. The family there lives in a small village—there's chickens and cows and cherry trees and all sorts of funny stories related to that, like mom getting stuck on that cherry tree picking the cherries.”
To Darya, “culture” means a mix of everything from traditions, history, and holidays, to the everyday beauty that can be found through language, music, and food. “Every culture has values that shape us. As for my sense of self, I'd say with such a complex history as my country's and me moving, the feature I feel I got from that is perseverance.”
A snapshot of traditions, the ties that bind
As Darya reflects on elements of her cultural roots that hold meaning for her, traditions big and small come to mind. What threads them all together is the way that they strengthen the bonds between loved ones.
“New Year is a big thing in Russia. You set a tree and decorate it, kids write letters to Father Frost, and tangerines, champagne, and Olivier salad are always to be on the table. My family also used to have a tradition of making pelmeni (somewhat similar to ravioli or dumplings) together with extended family and/or friends. I always loved that. It's something that unites so much—you talk during the process, you laugh when someone makes a funny shape of pelmen…we would also do a trick, make a pelmen with a surprise, "a lucky pelmen": instead of putting the proper filling (most common would be minced meat), one would make it with pepper or dough or anything else they come up with. When eating, whoever gets it is surely not happy, but it is believed to bring you luck! ...
For Easter, there's a tradition to decorate eggs. We are three in the family, so as a fun activity for kids, the parents would always do that with us. It's not just for kids though, adults do that too. You exchange the eggs when you visit someone, and we also do battles with eggs. If your egg breaks first, you lose—if not, you win! … I introduced that to my Mexican friends here in Canada, and they loved it.”
Sharing culture beyond borders
As a global citizen with a mission to inspire unity and strength in today’s youth through a celebration of cultures, Darya’s work through World In A Box embodies much of what we value at Root & Seed.
In each monthly subscription box, you can find a booklet that includes different facts about a country, including culture, traditions, and related activities. In the “Mexico” box, for instance, traditional crafts like papel picado are explored, and you can create your own papel picado banners. The Day of The Dead is discussed as one of the most important holidays in Mexico and there’s a themed colouring page included. In the “India” box, one of the projects is to create a pencil bag using Bagh print, an Indian technique used for textiles.
We invite you to explore the World In A Box website and consider making a purchase for your loved ones. Use the code ROOTANDSEED10 and get a 10% discount for any Subscription or Gift box. You can also find World In A Box on Instagram @worldinabox_ca or Facebook @worldinabox.ca.
What life experiences (big or small) have given you a greater appreciation for your own culture, or those of others? Share in the comments below.