Record Turnout for 24th Anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence


“We are delighted with the many successes of the 24th Anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence Day Celebrations” held in Toronto at Centennial Park on Saturday, August 22nd, says Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) Toronto Branch President, Taras Bahriy.

Speaking from the UCC Toronto office, cluttered with banners, placards, name tags and filled with UCC Toronto Branch members, Mr. Bahriy reflected on the six months of work that went into preparing for the event. “We are grateful to the members of our Board of Directors, to our 49 member organizations, and to the various non member organizations for their active and participatory support in creating this yearly event. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the Ukrainian Canadian Women’s Council, Toronto Branch (President Stephanie Shymko) who managed the entry into the park to ensure an accurate count of attendees and to provide a program booklet to all.”

We can certainly measure the success of the event by the fact that Premier Kathleen Wynne attended for the second year in a row accompanied by MPP Yvan Baker, MPP Amrit Mangat, MPP Peter Milczyn. Many former MP’s (now candidates) were present including former Minister of International Trade, Ed Fast, Conservatives Bernard Trottier and Ted Opitiz, Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj, and NDP Peggy Nash. UCC Toronto Board member Bohdan Wynnycky provided the introduction for the many speakers.

The stage program commenced with opening prayers conducted by Archpriest Bohdan Hladio, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and o. Ostap Czorny of the Ukrainian Catholic Church which was followed by a warm welcome from UCC Toronto Branch President, Taras Bahriy.

Special greetings were presented by the Ukrainian Consul General, Liudmyla Davydovych, as well as the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Marcin Bosacki. The afternoon was very ably emceed by Larysa Bajus and Myron Konyk. The program theme for this year was “Freedom Fighters – Then and Now: From Sich Riflemen to ATO.” The program was built around this theme by Lesia Movtchan and Anna Kisil.

Local talent included Ukraina Dance Group, Baturyn Marching and Concert Band, Toronto Bandurist Capella, Prolisok Vocal, Chervoni Maky, Trio Lira, Barvinok Dance Group, Vesnianka Dance Group, Zolota Lira musical Ensemble ensemble and Olena Burmenko with ensemble Elehia. Soloists from Ukraine included Olha Layevska, Valentyna and Roman Butenko, Eleonora Skydanova, Myroslava Solovyanenko, and Marta Shpak. Of note was the finale of the program which saw the audience stand and join the stage performers in the singing of ‘Oj u Luzi Chervona Kalyna’.

As always through the generous support of the Zaraska Family, the Shkilna Rada provided a robust Children’s Amusement Centre which included inflatables, games and crafts.

The UCC Toronto Euromaidan Committee showcased an evocative photo display of life in Ukraine today – soldiers, families, children, war at full tilt – that were sad but true. The attendees were moved to make donations to assist those in need in Ukraine and $7,660 was collected.

“This annual celebration could not have happened without the support of generous sponsorships, food and beverage sales, vendor displays and many volunteers,” said Bahriy. “Without our valued sponsors, the UCC Toronto Branch would not be able to host this event”.

Platinum sponsors for 2015 were Northland Power, Buduchnist Credit Union, and the Zaraska Family. Gold sponsors were Ukrainian Credit Union Limited, Horodynsky Farms, Caravan Logistics, and the Ihnatowycz Family Foundation. Silver sponsors were Meest, New Canadian Drain and Plumbing, Halenda’s and Delores Yarmila Buka-Huculak. The Media sponsors were CTV, Kontakt and Forum.

Special thanks go to John Iwaniura and partners Stefan Marena and Bohdan Werkun of Caravan Logistics for their generous contribution of $5,000 for the UCC Toronto Euromaidan Committee and $5,000 for the operational needs of the UCC Toronto Branch.

“Our volunteers begin work on Friday to set up the event, run it all day Saturday, and then take down and clean up on Sunday. It’s an incredible team” agreed co-chairs Taras Antoniw and Lesia Bonk, and logistics captain Marijka Stadnyk piped in that she couldn’t do it without Roman Pryslawsky and Lydia Falcomer. Lydia also runs the Chess Tournament. Kudos to Nadia Prokopiw and Irene Solomon who managed the marketing and advertising and special mention to our summer summer student, Pawel Stech, who earned his stripes in event planning.

UCC Toronto Branch Executive members Markian Shwec, Peter Schturyn, Lesya Winnicki, Oksana Rewa and Olya Grod filled the rest of the key positions on the organizing committee.

To top off the day, a Zabava with Zapovid and Hloptsi z Mista Bands played to a capacity crowd until 11 pm. Many thanks to Eugene Iwasiuk for running the stage and the zabava sound systems.

“And so, while we are wrapping up this event, we are already planning for a special celebration next year in honour of Ukraine’s 25th Anniversary of Independence.” said a smiling Taras Bahriy.