Marco Levytsky NP-UN Western Bureau Chief
Almost 2,900 visitors attended this year’s Ukrainian Day, organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council (UCC – APC) at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village (UCHV), located 50 kilometres east of Edmonton, August 20.
This was the first time since 2019 it has been held at the Village.
“We are proud to work once again with UCC-APC to celebrate Ukrainian Day at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. This year’s theme, ‘Opening our Hearts’, welcomed Ukrainian newcomers to learn about Ukrainian Canadian culture and history. With the beautiful backdrop of our historical village, festival goers were able to step back in time and chat with our costumed interpreters to better appreciate the roots of Alberta’s Ukrainian community,” said UCHV Director David Makowsky.
Among the highlights were two award presentations – the Michael Luchkovich Award which was bestowed upon former Minister of Economic Development and Trade of Alberta and MLA Derron Bilous and a special Rotary Club award presented to UCC-APC President Orysia Boychuk.
Yet another highlight was the presentation of a cheque for $50,000 from the Polish Canadian Humanitarian Society to UCC-APC to continue their work in assisting Ukrainian refugees. In accepting the cheque Boychuk called members of the Polish community ”trailblazers when it came to helping Ukraine”.
“They were the first to open their doors and help all those displaced people,” she said, noting that this was the second cheque that the Polish community has provided to UCC-APC Boychuk added that the money will help with the furniture warehouse that UCC is operating.
“We have about 5 million dollars of furniture that has been given out to displaced Ukrainians over the past 14 months. We’re hosting English classes, offering all kinds of online and in-person programing, and hosting job fairs to help Ukrainian newcomers.”
Displaced Ukrainians, more than 40,000 of whom have settled in Alberta since March 2022, made their presence felt at Ukrainian Day – both in terms of attendance and performance.
Among the newcomer or mixed groups that appeared during the afternoon concert were:
• The UA Razom Orchestra, which was founded at the beginning of this year. All the musicians (now totalling 20) are Ukrainian newcomers. The orchestra was created by Josep Pecuh, Ivanna Skolozdra, Marko Tarangul, Igor Kruk and conductor Larysa Nalyvayko and other talented musicians with the aim of contributing to the preservation of our heritage, spreading our culture and customs with its music.
• The Vechornytsy dance company which was founded in 2022 under the guidance of the young instructor, Sofia Sydorak. The group comprises of young newcomers who employ dance as a medium to showcase a fresh outlook on the art of movement, conveying emotions and narratives through evocative dance gestures.
• The Mriya band, a newly formed musical group, which consists of newcomers from Ukraine along with Ukraine’s Consul-General to Edmonton, Oleksandr Danyleiko. The founder of the group, Maria Kuzmenko’s aim is to create music and at the same time bring benefit to society, so all proceeds from concerts and performances are directed to the needs of those who hold the front and fight for a free Ukraine.
• The “New Life” choir, which was created in the fall of 2022 at Edmonton’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish of St. Basil the Great. It is directed by Oleksandra Hryniuk and includes newly arrived Ukrainians to Canada, as well as active members of the Edmonton Ukrainian community. The choir’s repertoire includes the best samples of world classical and sacred music, as well as modern arrangements of Ukrainian folk and patriotic songs.
Other performers included:
• The Tryzub Ukrainian Dance Ensemble from Calgary;
• The Korinnya Ukrainian Folk Ensemble from Calgary, as well as their associated Calgary Bandurysty;
• The Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company from Edmonton;
• The Ukrainian Dnipro Choir of Edmonton;
• The Barvinok band From Edmonton and Calgary; and
• Metis fiddler Brianna Lizotte from Sylvan Lake.
Greetings were delivered by Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA and Parliamentary Secretary for Settlement Services and Ukrainian Evacuees Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk for the Government of Alberta; Edmonton Strathcona MP, Vice Chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, and Foreign Affairs Critic for the NDP on behalf of the federal Parliament; Consul-General Danyleiko for the Government of Ukraine; UCC-APC President Boychuk; and Lamont County Reeve David Diduck.
Armstrong-Homeniuk said that in her role as Parliamentary Secretary, she recognized the need to provide a safe haven to Ukrainian evacuees fleeing the horrors of war.
“The Alberta Government has worked in partnership with a number of organizations, to help Ukrainian evacuees adjust to their new home, language, and communities.
“I want to take a moment to thank all the settlement agencies, immigrant-serving organizations, volunteers, and volunteer groups, like the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, who have done an extraordinary job supporting the evacuees when they arrive in Alberta,” she said.
“As a Member of Parliament, as a New Democrat, I promise to do whatever I can to ensure Canada does everything possible to help Ukraine achieve peace, rebuild their country and create a thriving, modern future for all Ukrainians,” said McPherson, who reiterated earlier statements that Ukraine must regain all territory occupied by the Russians.
Consul-General Danyleiko said “we are fighting for our independence. We are fighting for our lives.”
“Putin and the Russian invaders, don’t want to just get our land. They want to destroy us as a nation, they want to eliminate Ukraine as a country… They want us to become slaves of the Russian Empire. But we will never be (slaves). We will never surrender.”
He praised the work of the volunteers and doctors who are helping the soldiers on the front and added: We are all united… wherever we are, wherever we live at this time, we are all part of one and only Ukrainian people.”
Boychuk said that the Ukrainian community’s presence in Alberta is vital to support and stand by Ukraine during difficult times.
“Our collective efforts will help overcome the challenges that Ukraine faces to preserve its integrity and independence and help newcomers adjust to life in Canada. Let us raise our voices to advocate for the rights of our people, support peace, and the triumph of truth and dignity. On this occasion, we can reaffirm that nothing will break our spirit, as multiple generations in Canada are supporting Ukraine to remain a sovereign nation.”
Diduck said: “Ukrainian Day is a special day which brings us together to celebrate our Ukrainian history, tradition and culture through food, music, song and dance,” adding there is no better place to celebrate Ukrainian culture than the UCHV.
The day started with Divine Liturgies at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of St. Nicholas and St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church, followed by Blessings at the Centennial Pioneer Recognition Monument, the Chornobyl Disaster Commemorative Cross, the Canadian Legion Monument and the Internment Camp Monument.
Other features and activities at Ukrainian Day included the Village Vendor Market, the Kalyna Kitchen and Sweets & Treats, Summer kitchen, Gift shop, Community displays, the “Unbreakable” Photo exhibition and documentary – “Fortress Mariupol, entertainment in the Courtyard and Children’s Activities organized by the dance group “Yatran”.
The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is an open-air museum depicting early settlement in east central Alberta from 1892-1930.