This weekend, a popular event returns to Kingston for the first time since 2019, as the Lviv, Ukraine Folklore Festival takes place Saturday, Jun. 11, 2022, at Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School. This year’s edition promises many of the experiences festival-goers have come to enjoy over the years, such as samplings of Ukrainian cooking, as well as performances from dance troupes and other arts groups.
“There will be Ukrainian entertainment. There will be Ukrainian food, Ukrainian displays, desserts, souvenirs from the actual city of Lviv, Ukraine, that people can purchase,” said Nadia Luciuk, festival chairperson.
The Ukrainian Folklore Festival has been a fixture in Kingston for over 50 years, providing a longstanding presence for the city’s small but active Ukrainian community. Originally part of the larger, now-defunct Kingston and District Folklore Festival, the Ukrainian Folklore festivities have continued on independently. Known for its vibrant colours, striking dance, and warm, welcoming aura, Lviv, Ukraine Folklore Festival is truly an event that offers something for anyone of any age. “It’s something for Kingstonians to really be proud of,” Luciuk said. “We have a very small Ukrainian community, a very active Ukrainian community in Kingston.”
Previous editions of Ukrainian Folklore have typically taken place over the course of an entire weekend; however, Luciuk said that organizers opted to hold this year’s event as a single-day festival, given the current state of the pandemic. “In order to make people comfortable, and to allow for the staff at the school to clean and disinfect and all that stuff… we decided on a slow rollback of Folklore.”
While this year’s event is compacted into one day, organizers have sought to include as many elements from previous editions as possible, creating a familiar environment for those in attendance. “We are doing a mini Folklore, in a sense, in that what you would have seen over the course of three days, you’re going to get compacted into one [eight-hour] day,” explained Luciuk.
For those who have not attended Ukrainian Folklore events in the past, Luciuk said that festival goers can expect an authentic Ukrainian experience. “What we’ve always tried to do with our Folklore Festival is [that] when our guests enter the facility, we want them to feel like they’re in a Ukrainian home. So typically, if you went to visit a Ukrainian, the food would be there, the entertainment, the song, the dance, the friendliness, the openness of the Ukrainian heart… So, that’s what we’re trying to convey to our guests that come in.”
Attendees will also be provided with a number of learning opportunities, said Luciuk, as displays teach people about Ukrainian history and cultural customs. “We have a number of [display screens] that recount different periods of Ukrainian history in Canada, internment in Ukraine, the great famine… We try not to dwell on the negatives that have happened to Ukraine or [to] Ukrainians because it’s a festival [and] people are coming to enjoy themselves. But we also take the opportunity to [acknowledge the] dark periods in our time.”
According to Luciuk, an acknowledgement of these darker periods in Ukrainian history also shaped the organizers’ approach to the current Ukraine conflict and how to incorporate events related to the war with Russia into this year’s festival. “We really struggled with that. But you’re seeing enough of it on media… What we want to do is celebrate Ukraine and Ukrainians… This year, it’s more important than ever for people to understand that Ukraine is an independent, democratic country, with a culture and a history and traditions that have been around for many, many hundreds of years and will persist for many more years to come.”
Ultimately, Luciuk said that Folklore organizers have decided to focus on the positives, with the festival acting as a celebration of Ukrainian culture, allowing members of the community an opportunity to put some of the troubles behind them, even for just a few hours. And ultimately, such a festival may help to educate the general public on Ukrainian customs, as people look for ways to stand by Ukraine and its people amid the ongoing conflict with Russia, the organizers expressed.
For Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk, an expert in Ukrainian history, the 2022 edition of Folklore will harken back to its roots.
Dr. Luciuk observed, “Most of the people who organized the Lviv, Ukraine Folklore 50 years ago and moving forward were people who came to Canada as refugees and displaced persons after the Second World War… And now here in Kingston, we’re beginning to accept Ukrainian refugees in 2022. How ironic is that, that we have a situation where Ukraine is again under attack? Millions of Ukrainians have been forced into exile, have been internally displaced, have been murdered. Have been raped, have been tortured… and some of those people have been and are finding shelter in Kingston.”
This year’s festival allows members of the community to celebrate their heritage while also highlighting the efforts under way in Kingston to support Ukrainians here and in Europe. Dr. Luciuk said, “We’re talking with various stakeholders in the Kingston area. We’ve got the support of Ian Arthur, Mark Gerretsen, Mayor Paterson… to start helping those Ukrainians who want to come to resettle in Kingston — whether they’re going to be here permanently, [or only] for the duration of the war, we don’t know.”
Dr. Luciuk noted that Kingston’s Ukrainian community is rather small and that most festival attendees are in fact non-Ukrainians, increasing the festival’s ability to educate members of the public, while also providing a fun afternoon.
“In the past, we’ve always had thousands of Kingstonians and people from the region coming to the event — 99.9 per cent of them are non-Ukrainian. So, we anticipate and always get lots of visitors… We have educational displays that tell them about things like the Great Famine in Ukraine or the internment operations. So, there’s a whole package of things.”
For 2022, the Folklore Festival is also taking on the motto “Stand With Ukraine,” inviting Kingstonians to find ways to support members of the Ukrainian community, both in Kingston and around the world.
“The point here is come out and stand with Ukraine. Show us as Kingstonians… that you stand with Ukrainians, and that you support Ukraine and its right to return to its rightful place in Europe. Enjoy yourselves, but also, by coming out for this kind of event… [guests] are going to be saying, ‘Hey, we stand with Ukraine,’” remarked Dr. Luciuk.
Saturday’s event takes place at Regiopolis-Notre Dame High School, located at 130 Russell Street. Doors open at 12:00 noon, with $5 providing access to a number of different experiences. “There will be Ukrainian entertainment, both dance and music, and there are five shows scheduled for the eight-hour period. There are museum-quality displays, [and] Ukrainian arts and crafts from Ukraine and from Canada,” said Nadia Luciuk.
Festival-goers will also have a chance to contribute to the Ukrainian economy: “We’ll have souvenirs for sale. So, someone coming who wants to have a lasting memory of the day can purchase souvenirs that are actually from the city of Lviv in Ukraine.”
Luciuk said the event is open to everyone, including families, with something on offer for all attendees. “Our intent is to make this family-friendly. You’re not breaking the bank to go and enjoy the day and walk out of there with something as a souvenir… It’s really family-oriented.”