The Death of a Pig

Jeremy Borovitz // Kiev, Ukraine

Someone was banging on my window. It was seven in the morning on an early spring day in my small Ukrainian village where I was serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Kolya, my neighbor and the principal of the local school where I worked, was standing outside with a shit-eating-grin on his face. “Davai, Jeremy, come with me,” he said. “Today we celebrate.”

I quickly threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt and wandered over to his yard. A group of people had gathered—Kolya’s wife, his grown son and daughter, in-laws, nieces, nephews—-and they beckoned me to enter one of the many sheds that littered their land.

Inside was a large muddy pig. Ropes had already been tied to each of its legs and the four men in attendance had taken hold of one apiece. The pig let out a terrifying squeal as the men rolled the pig onto its back and pulled its legs apart.

Kolya’s mother-in-law, Babushka Halya, approached almost giddily. As the pig attempted to hold onto its last moments on earth, Babushka Halya drove the knife straight into its heart. The pig was dead in seconds.

The rest of the day was one of fun-filled festivities, which involved carving a pig, frying its fat and drinking Samogon, Ukrainian moonshine.

I had been a vegetarian for almost three years at that point, so I passed on the pig. And while I don’t generally drink moonshine at the crack of dawn, that day seemed like a good exception.

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