Adding smetana (sour cream) is not optional, at least if you want to eat your borscht like a true Russian.


This past Tuesday evening, Oct. 25, at Center Stage, the UVU Russian Club held its third annual borscht night, serving up bowls of the beloved bright red Russian soup along with bread and an extra surprise: a sneak preview of an upcoming documentary set in Russia.


This year, according to Russian Club Co-President John McClure, the club wanted to go beyond borscht. In addition to serving a traditional Russian meal, the club invited UVU student and budding filmmaker Tree Gore to talk about his upcoming documentary and share a little of his footage.


After the 50 people present ate their fill of borscht and bread, sitting at round tables and chatting in both English and Russian, Gore took the stage. Gore returned from adventuring in Russia only two months ago. While there, he and his film project partner, Christine Armbruster, spent three and a half months backpacking through small towns across Russia. Their goal was to document the lives of small-town Russians living in towns largely forgotten after the fall of the Soviet Union.


According to Gore, the project was “completely dependent on the charity of others.” Gore and Armbruster relied on the kindness of locals in Russia not only to provide them with interviews and interpretation but often to provide them with places to sleep, as well. Gore recalls that he and Armbruster would often enter a town market place, begin chatting, and within an hour and a half have an offer to sleep on someone’s floor or couch.


Though Gore and Armbruster made many connections and received much help, their path through Russia wasn’t always simple. In fact, at one point the two were held by the mafia for eight hours and thought they might never see home again. On other occasions, the duo slept on places like roadsides or beaches. Getting people to open up and tell their stories was also a challenge at times. As Gore explained, people anywhere would rather open up to a friend than a stranger. This meant the team needed to build connections with people in order to learn about them. However, the duo was able to build friendships and gather stories. Gore is still in contact with many of those he befriended in Russia.


The documentary from Gore and Armbruster’s travels is still in progress and Gore does not expect a rough cut for at least six months. This is easy to understand as the team gathered hundreds of hours of footage while in Russia. Currently, 24 volunteers are helping with transcribing and translating the footage in order to create English subtitles for the documentary.


Along with his talk, Gore played a recent UVU podcast about the upcoming documentary along with the documentary’s trailer, showing “a teaser” of what is to come. Afterward, Gore remained on stage for a Q&A session sharing joys, struggles and experiences from his time in Russia. When he concluded, the audience applauded and then lingered for another bowl of soup and more conversation.


For more information about the UVU Russian Club email [email protected]. The club’s next event will be a music and dance fundraising concert for adoption held on Nov. 1 at UVU. For more information on Gore’s film project check out