Over 2,500 Gathered at the Ukrainian America Sport Center – Tryzubivka on the Occasion of the 23rd Anniversary of Ukraine’s Independence

By Eugene Luciw

Sun., Aug. 24, Horsham, PA - The Ukrainian and American flags danced in the high blue skies, brilliant sunshine and mild breezes of a delightful picture perfect summer afternoon at the Ukrainian American Sport Center-Tryzubivka. The intense, varied and complex thoughts, prayers and emotions of the gathering crowd were palpable.

Nearly all Ukrainians, haling directly or through their ancestry from all regions of Ukraine, demonstrated solidarity with their homeland and her people through their clothing and accessories: Beautiful embroideries and folk costumes, flags, tryzubs, Ukrainian national team sport jerseys and our beautiful language affirmed the presence of Ukraine’s immortal and immutable spirit in the festival glade, well before the concert had even started. They came, of course, to celebrate Ukraine’s independence and the liberating force of the Maidan freedom movement. But they also came to pray, to find communal solace and to mourn and to honor the sacrifices of their brothers and sisters for the sake of our beloved ancestral homeland’s freedom.

Representatives of many other nations, once also captives of the Soviet empire, were present; their national symbols were lovely accent pieces to the Ukrainian imagery. Many other non-Ukrainians attended to come to know and to experience the brilliant nature of a people that, with the will, self-sacrifice and moral courage of free men and women, dares to defy Putin and his formidable arsenal of soldiers, arms and weapons of mass destruction.

Tryzub’s President, Danylo Nysch, and Anatolij Murha, representative of chief festival sponsor, the Ukrainian Selfreliance Federal Credit Union of Philadelphia, greeted the audience and introduced this writer as the concert’s master of ceremonies.

Between the Baltimore-Washington area’s Spiv Zhyttya (“Livingin Song”), the guest choir’s, masterful renditions of the US and Ukrainian National anthem’s, the MC gave the audience a brief sketch of events in Ukraine, emphasized that the Ukrainian people can, must and will celebrate not only their independence, but also the freedom and dignity that promises to be the progeny of the Maidan revolution and movement.  However, neither Ukrainians nor Americans can ever forget to call to mind the sacrifices that precipitated for us our God-given rights.

After a moment of silence, the MC called all to prayer, as the Grace Ukrainian Evangelical Church Choir of Hatboro-Horsham, PA sang the Our Father. Rev. Chancellor of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia Joseph Szupa and Rev. Taras Naumenko, pastor of St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Philadelphia, offered prayers and benediction. The Grace Church choir closed with a stirring rendition of “The Prayer for Ukraine”. The tears could no longer be chocked back.

Then, a tremendous caste of performers unleashed the “fireworks” of freedom and independence, a robust, colorful, vibrant and briskly paced cascade of Ukrainian music, song and dance that riveted the audience.  As is the tradition at Tryzub, the artists themselves designed the program in a collaborative effort.

In the middle of the program, Borys Pawluk, PE, a representative of the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC), introduced the audience to Roman and Luka, two young volunteer soldiers who defended the protesters in Kyiv and  who would be fighting with their brothers in the volunteer National Guard of Ukraine, had they not been injured on Maidan earlier this year. After a resounding, prolonged standing ovation, they said a few words, as humble as they were moving. Mr. Pawluk explained UUARC’s humanitarian aid program for the Ukrainian military and encouraged all to contribute generously. The Maidan heroes spent most of the day at the UUARC table, speaking with people, providing information and helping raise money for their brothers-in-arms.

In tandem with this, Tryzub handed out informational leaflets and held a 50-50 raffle for the benefit of the humanitarian relief efforts. The winners of the two raffles, Mr. Mykola Bojczuk and Mr. Vasyl Haryk, stirred the audience by donating all of their winnings to the UUARC program.

Another stirring moment occurred when ISKRA Ukrainian Dance Ensemble performed a dancing and musical tribute to pop singer – freedom fighter, Volodymyr Ivasiuk. The MC explained to the non-Ukrainian audience the unique role of Ukrainian artists, dancers, singers and musicians as dissidents and freedom fighters.

At the end of the program the MC called all of the performers to the stage: violinist Innesa Tymochko Dekajlo; Vox Ethnika Orchestra; Iskra Ukrainian Dance Ensemble; Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble and Spiv Zhyttya, which closed with a most intriguing “village” version of Mnohaja Lita.

A vibrant Zabava-Dance at the outdoor dance pavilion followed to the tunes of Vox Ethnika. Throughout the day, festival-goers were able to visit vendor’s grove which was chock full of Ukrainian arts and crafts and, in many cases, the artists that created them. Face painting, caricature drawings and a myriad of amusements were available for “kids of all ages”. A lush menu of Ukrainian and BBQ foods, desserts and adult refreshments rounded out a very spirited, emotional and uplifting day.