STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For 21st Century Media
For more than two decades, the Ukrainian American Sport Center in Horsham has celebrated the heritage of the former Soviet republic, which achieved its independence in 1991, in a folk festival filled with food, culture and fun. This year’s event will also feature solemn moments, particularly during the opening ceremony, as participants and organizers take time to recognize the unrest in that region of the world.
But there will be much fun, organizers say, with Ukrainian folk art, music, food, and dance. The main thing is to celebrate the anniversary of “our ancestral homeland’s independence and showcase its rich culture and heritage.”
Organizer Gene Luciw said it’s important to do so.
“Ukrainian folk art, music, and dance are not only moving and deeply symbolic, but [the culture is] also the vessel that embodies the Ukrainian spirit,” he said.
That spirit is helping those facing Russian oppression again, to keep fighting to maintain their freedom, he said.
“We celebrate the success of the Ukrainian people and their protests in Independence Square,” he said. “They stood up for freedom and human dignity.”
Luciw, an American born to Ukrainian-immigrant parents, thinks that the continuing struggles in his ancestral homeland provides an important message for everyone around the world.
“To all of us, as Americans, as Ukrainians, we should remember that freedom and independence has a price,” he said.
Luciw mourns those affected by the violence in that region and hopes that people will become more aware or to continue to be so if they already are. He thinks Americans sometimes overlook struggles like what’s happening in Ukraine because people in the U.S. have “freedom, dignity, sovereignty” and take it for granted.
For years now, Ukrainians and those who appreciate their culture have come to the festival and Luciw hopes many will this year as well.
“We have a multi-cultural crowd,” he said. “We’re going to show what’s best about us — the beauty of our people, of our nation, and of our ancestral homeland.”
The Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble from Jenkintown (www.voloshky.com) will perform as part of the celebration. Taras Lewyckyj, the group’s artistic director, is looking forward to it. The group will perform dances in styles that represent the various regions of Ukraine.
“The dances tell stories and they do so in regional styles,” he said. “The styles change geographically.”
He said some of the dances will be representative of areas in Eastern Ukraine, which “are questionable whether or not they are part of Ukraine anymore,” due to the Russian invasion. “They will always be part of Ukraine,” he said.
Though not political per se, the ensemble aims to showcase the culture of the country Lewyckyj’s parents came from, which he grew up honoring and celebrating.
Lewyckyj thinks that dance and the arts are a great way to build bridges between people.
Luciw said that the fun helps people to learn about the history of Ukraine and its people, which current events continue to change. But they’ll never give up and never lose appreciation for who they are as a people.
“Some try to destroy us as a nation,” he said. “We will never stop proclaiming who we are. We are at the lead of fighting for peace and freedom.”
IF YOU GO
What: Ukrainian Folk Festival
When: Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24.
Where: Ukrainian American Sport Center, Lower State and County Line roads, Horsham.
Admission: $15; students $10; children under 15 free. Free parking.
Info.: Call (215) 343-5412 or check www.tryzub.org/ukrainian-festival-2014.php