Experience the spirit of a people at ‘Stand with Ukraine – Lviv, Ukraine Folklore Festival’

Festival passports are also keepsakes featuring the artwork of Ukrainian Canadian artist Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn. Image submitted.

You are invited into a Ukrainian home this weekend — figuratively if not literally — to experience the spirit of the Ukrainian people for yourself.

‘Stand with Ukraine – Lviv, Ukraine Folklore Festival’ returns to Kingston Saturday, Jun. 10 and Sunday, Jun. 11, 2023, at Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School, located at 130 Russell Street. 

Now in its 54th year, the festival is one of the oldest of its kind in Canada, explains Nadia Luciuk, a member of the Ukrainian Canadian Club of Kingston and one of the event’s principal organizers.

“We have been around longer than, say, [festivals in cities with] a large Ukrainian community, like Toronto or Oshawa or Edmonton or Winnipeg. So that in itself is a pretty incredible accomplishment.” 

Ukrainian embroidery display at past Ukrainian Folklore Festivals in Kingston. Photo via Lviv, Ukraine Folklore Festival on Facebook.

Festival-goers should feel right at home, explains Luciuk: “When someone comes to our festival, what we try to do is replicate what it would feel like to come into a Ukrainian home. You would have Ukrainian food and desserts; you would see Ukrainian arts and crafts, embroidery… you’d have Ukrainian entertainment!” 

Ukrainians are famous for embroidery, Luciuk notes, “and there are all sorts of different types, not just cross-stitch, which most people associate with embroidery.” There will be a “museum-quality display” of the culturally important art form at the festival, she says. “Some of our pieces that we’re showcasing this year are from the late 1890s [and] early 1900s, so well over 100 years. And they’re family heirlooms. In one case in particular, it’s my great-great-grandmother’s outfit.” 

Entertainment and music make the festival even more colourful, with Maky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble also celebrating its 54th anniversary this weekend. “They have participated in every Ukrainian festival since the outset,” says Luciuk. On Sunday, they will be joined by guests Odesa Ukrainian Dancers from Oshawa. There will also be performances by Tanya Navolska — who sings and accompanies herself on the bandura, a traditional stringed instrument — and other special guests.

Maky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble is also celebrating its 54th anniversary this weekend. “They have participated in every Ukrainian festival since the outset,” says Nadia Luciuk (right), a principal organizer of the annual event. Photo submitted.

The festival is a celebration of the Ukrainian spirit, says Luciuk, but it cannot be ignored that Ukraine is in the midst of what she calls a “genocidal war.”

“What people have to realize is that Putin and Russia have found they can’t beat the army,” Luciuk says, expressing that now the war effort has become an effort to destroy the land itself. “That is the main goal.” 

“What this festival and other Ukrainian festival events that are taking place around the world are showing people is that yes, Ukraine is a country. We are an independent, democratic, sovereign country… You’re not going to destroy the Ukrainian spirit, ever,” she continues.

“On one hand, [the festival] is a celebration. But you’ve got to remember Ukraine is an older country than Russia. Russia always refers to Ukraine as their little brother, but if you go back and look at history, Russia [and] Moscow didn’t even exist when Ukraine was already building cathedrals in the capital city… People need to have that perspective in mind.”

There will be opportunities to donate to the cause at the festival, but that is not its main focus, says Luciuk. “We’ve been helping… our Ukrainian students… with the Mayor’s Fund for Ukrainian Refugees — We’ve helped over 150 families or individuals through that fund… So, yes, people will be able to donate if they still wish to do so. But really, our focus is on the celebration of Ukrainian people.”

The festival, which runs from from noon until 9 p.m. on Saturday and noon until 5 p.m. on Sunday, is a family-friendly, alcohol-free event, and every attempt has been made to keep it wallet-friendly, as well. Passports, which allow you in and out as much as you like on both days, are only $5 at the door, and you can dine on satisfying homemade Ukrainian delights for less than the cost of a fast-food meal.

For more information about this weekend’s festival, visit the Lviv, Ukraine Folklore Festival’s Facebook page.

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