The amazing melting pot of cultures in our tri-state region includes family heritages from all over the world.
Think of your own family history, for example.
Preserving the Past is a News 12 Original in which we look at how our neighbors are keeping alive the rich traditions, skills, recipes, and celebrations that come from their ancestors and homelands.
VIDEO: Preserving the Past - Full Special
In this 1924 file photo, immigrants from Europe sit in the registry room at Ellis Island in New York harbor.


Musical pioneer Vy Higgensen is preserving history through song. She heads the Mama Foundation for the Arts which teaches teens songs birthed from slavery. "I'm on a mission to make sure that we pass this music on from generation to generation to generation - so the music never dies," she told News 12.
Vy Higgensen, founder and executive director Mama Foundation for the Arts.


One of the many ways we preserve our past is to pass on traditional dishes and recipes handed down. Stamford's Tetiana Kokorska and Irena Dragan say preserving their national dish of borshch - and reclaiming their roots - is a priority as their native Ukraine is under attack.
Ukrainian borshch cooking was recently inscribed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Irena's Family Borshch Recipe
For the broth:
2.5-3 pounds baby back pork ribs, separated individually
2 medium sized onions, peeled and cut in half
2-3 medium sized carrots, peeled and sliced into 2-inch pieces
3 celery ribs, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 parsley root, cut into 1-inch pieces
10 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
For the soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms or 3 ounces of dried mushroom mix
5-6 medium sized beets, baked and shredded
4-5 red or gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ pieces
1 15oz can of kidney or butter beans
1 14oz can of tomato sauce
½ cabbage, cored and sliced thin
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream to garnish
  1. Prepare the broth: Pour water over the ribs to cover about 2 inches, bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, for 45 minutes, occasionally skimming foam off surface.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot. Continue simmering for another hour or so. Afterwards, remove the cooked vegetables.
  3. While the broth is simmering, set oven to 425. Wrap beets in foil. Bake them until soft, about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the beets. Pierce with fork to check for doneness.
  4. Pour boiling water over dried mushrooms. Cover. Let them stand for 20-30 minutes.
  5. In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil and sauté chopped onion over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add shredded carrot and sauté for another 3-5 minutes. 
  6. Add tomato sauce and use the simmering broth to thin out the mixture, if necessary. Add sugar. Sauté for 5 more minutes.
  7. Pour the mixture from the skillet into the simmering broth.
  8. Pour the soaking mushroom water into the broth. Chop the mushrooms finely and stir them into the broth as well.
  9. Add chopped potatoes. Stir gently to combine. Bring to boil. Adjust the heat to gentle simmer and cook until potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.
  10. Add cabbage. Stir gently to combine. Bring to boil. Adjust the heat to gentle simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.
  11. Add shredded beets. Stir gently to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  12. Add thinly sliced garlic.
  13. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  14. Add cooked beans. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
  15. Add chopped dill and parsley. Stir.
  16. Taste the borshch and adjust seasoning as needed.
  17. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fresh dill (optional).
Borshch tends to taste better the next day once all the flavors had a chance to mingle.
Irena Dragan and Tetiana Kokorska honor their Ukrainian heritage alive by following traditional recipes for dishes such as borshch.


Indian American dance students celebrate their heritage by learning the art of Bharatanatyam - passed down from generation to generation.
In the video above, students rehearse ancient classical dance at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Edison, New Jersey.


Sebastiano Montella is a custom bespoke tailor in Wading River on Long Island who learned his craft at an early age in Visciano, Italy, near Naples. He is passing his specific Italian tailoring knowledge on to his daughter Michelina.
Sebastiano Montella earlier in his career and now - sharing the artful skill of Italian tailoring.


The Dominican Cultural Association of Yonkers offers several dance groups for kids, including lessons on how to dance merengue. The dancers are outfitted with colorful costumes shipped directly from the Dominican Republic. The hard work pays off when the dance groups perform at some local events. 

Below are some resources featured in Preserving The Past.
Montella Custom Bespoke Tailor in Wading River, New York
Taglio Pizza in Mineola, New York

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Special thanks to: 

  • The National Park Service and Nicholas & Lence Communications for facilitating access to Liberty and Ellis Islands. 

  • Statue City Cruises, the only authorized cruise to Liberty Island and Ellis Island