Alberta celebrates Ukraine’s 30th Independence anniversary

Guests unfold a 30-metre long Ukrainian flag in celebration of Ukraine’s significant anniversary. Photo: Olena Goncharova

Olena Goncharova for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

Over 300 people gathered in Pigeon Lake on August 22 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence and Ukrainian Day. Despite the rain, for many attendants, it was a chance to finally reconnect with friends and celebrate all things Ukrainian during outdoor zabava at Camp Bar-V-Nok. The event was sponsored by Ukraine Millenium Foundation, Strathcona county, Meest Toronto, and in part by The Shevchenko Foundation as well as Mike and Elsie Kawulych Family Fund.

Organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council (UCC-APC), the celebration included a picnic-style concert from 2-4 p.m., which featured Zabava u Koli, Alberta-based band specializing exclusively in Ukrainian music, Merited Artist of Ukraine Ihor Bohdan, and Slava Sles, a singer of Ukrainian-Croatian descent. Consul General of Ukraine in Edmonton Oleksandr Danyleiko, who shares a strong passion for Ukrainian music, also played his guitar and sang popular traditional and modern songs. Some people couldn’t help but dance under the rain to popular tunes. Children were busy with a variety of activities, including face painting, soccer game, arts and crafts station and dance classes.

Minister of Culture Ron Orr also took part in the celebration and congratulated the participants: “It’s wonderful to see so many families enjoying time together and celebrating their heritage. Whether you are a descendant from the very first Ukrainians who came here in 1891 or if you have immigrated more recently, thank you for what you’ve done as individuals and as a community to help build this great province. You truly had a great contribution throughout our history. Thank you for passing down your heritage, for sharing your food, dance, arts and language. And today we are happy to celebrate your heritage.”
Consul Danyleiko also brought a giant piece of Ukraine to Alberta: A 30-metre long Ukrainian flag that was unfurled on Sunday afternoon in celebration of Ukraine’s significant anniversary.

Danyleiko congratulated Ukrainians and Ukrainian Canadians with Ukraine’s 30th independence and said, “I’m happy to celebrate our Independence Day here together, it’s the biggest holiday for the Ukrainian people. We have been fighting for this independence for centuries. Our main task is to cherish and protect our independence and protect our land, our free and sovereign country. And I’d like to thank Canada for its continuous support of our independence.”

Those who couldn’t make it to Camp Bar-V-Nok could enjoy the online program hosted by Josh Classen of CTV News Edmonton and Mara Palahniuk and watch a unique joint production video prepared by Calgary and Edmonton’s Plast, CYM and Alberta CYMK – Ukrainian Orthodox Youth, featuring an original cover of a popular Ukrainian rock song, titled “Zhovto Syni Sercya” (Yellow-Blue Hearts).

For Nataliia Filimonova, native Kyivan, who moved to Edmonton three years ago, this event was the first of its kind. “It feels awesome being a part of the Ukrainian Canadian community. I’ve learned that Ukrainians first moved to Canada back in 1891 and knowing that made me very proud and happy for our people who were able to preserve our culture and Ukrainian soul for so many years,” she said. “I’m looking forward to attending many more events like this one.”

What looked like a fun family-style event in reality took a lot of work for the organizers: Yuliia Marcinkoski, an executive director at UCC Alberta, says the preparation for the event started in February, and the organizers worked hard to ensure everyone can safely enjoy the festivities amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year, they decided to pick a location that will be easy to reach for people from Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer. It was the first time, Marcinkoski said, they used the Bar-V-Nok camp facility, which originally started as a children’s camp for the youth of the Ukrainian Orthodox Community. “Here people could safely enjoy all the activities and even stay overnight in the housing provided by the camp.”

“We wanted to show that there are wonderful places in the community people don’t know about and introduce them,” Marcinkoski explained.

She says she had “the best experience” organizing the celebration and even had a chance to enjoy it herself.

“The atmosphere was incredible, people sang and danced and we received very positive feedback. It was a multi-layered festival but after the feedback we knew we did everything right. This event also helped to unite us, many Ukrainian organizations and showed we can do so much more in the future,” Marcinkoski concluded.