Ukrainian Independence Day Folk Festival 2022 at Tryzubivka Raised over $10,000.00 for Humanitarian Relief for the Victims of War in Ukraine.
By Eugene A. Luciw
Photos Courtesy of Christine Syzonenko
On Sunday, August 28, a warm and pleasant summer day welcomed over 3,250 festival-goers to this year’s Ukrainian Independence Day Folk Festival, at the Ukrainian American Sport Center - Tryzubivka. The shady festival glade was adorned with the flags of the United States and Ukraine, and with the vibrant and colorful Ukrainian embroideries, folk arts and crafts, jewelry, emblems, motifs and wares displayed by the vendors.
Ukrainians, haling, directly or through ancestry, from nearly all regions of Ukraine, demonstrated solidarity with their homeland and with all fellow Ukrainians: Beautiful embroidered shirts and blouses, flags, Tryzubs, Ukrainian sports and thematic jerseys and our beautiful colors and language affirmed the presence of Ukraine’s immortal and immutable spirit, well before the concert had even started.
Many non-Ukrainians attended and came to know and to experience the brilliant nature, culture and history of a people that continues in a seemingly timeless gallant fight for freedom and human rights and dignities against their perennial genocidal oppressors from Muscovite Russia.
The St. Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Kozaks and the Banner of Jasna Gora historical re-enactment group accented the splendor of the grove with living, walking, talking displays of the clothing, armor, armaments and daily wares from Ukraine’s Kozak era. The Kozak groups’ presence and presentation of arms on stage during the festival concert’s opening ceremonies was a brilliant reminder of the legendary struggle of Ukraine’s Kozaks for freedom and independence.
This year Kobzar Alex Lahoda and his folk-rock group “Kholodnyy Yar (“Cold Ravine”) added their talents to the lore, demonstrating the magic of the Bandura, an indigenous musical instrument that is known as the Voice of Ukraine.
A bountiful Ukrainian kitchen and BBQ grill served tasty meals and desserts, while the St. Michael’s Kozaks prepared Kulish, a rich Kozak stew, and Borscht on an open flame and served them to the public directly from huge black pots and kettles. An assortment of tap beers, wines, spirits and other refreshments added to the colors and flavors of the day.
Tryzub’s President, Danylo Nysch, and Anatoli Murha, representing festival sponsor, Ukrainian Selfreliance Federal Credit Union of Philadelphia, greeted the audience and introduced Natalia Tarasiuk and this writer as the concert’s MCs.
Ukrainian American Veterans Posts 1 (Philadelphia) and 42 (Lehigh Valley), dedicated to the memories of Anthony Bilyi, a young Ukrainian American who sacrificed his life defending Pearl Harbor, and Wolodymyr Palahniuk (“Jack Palance”), respectively, presented the colors. Philadelphia’s own Yuliya Stupen delivered masterful renditions of the US and Ukrainian National Anthems, respectively.
Tryzub’s co-chaplains, Rev. Protopresbyter Taras Naumenko, rector of St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Philadelphia, and Rev. Roman Pitula, rector of the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, offered Benediction and Solemn Prayers for Ukraine and her beleaguered people.
Representatives of the area Vietnamese (led by Teresa Tran and Vicky Ung), Korean (led by Grand Master Bong Pil Yang), and Indian (led by Paresh Birla) communities, some dressed in their national folk wear, also participated in the opening ceremonies. The Vietnamese representatives carried sunflowers in their hands, as a tribute to the bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian People.
Col. Robert DeSousa, State Director, and Zachary Shaw, National Security Legislative Aide, offered greetings from PA Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey. Manor College President, Jonathan Peri, was also introduced to the audience and the school’s perennial presence as a friend of Tryzub was acknowledged and re-affirmed.
MC Luciw then brought the audience’s attention to the genocidal atrocities that are occurring in Ukraine at the savage hands of Moscow, Ukraine’s perennial imperial, tyrannical enemy. He proclaimed, however, that, inspired by the thoughts, ideas, longings and writings of poetess Lesya Ukrainka, Ukrainians will not allow Moscow’s savagery to stop them from celebrating their language, history, music, song, dance, culture, customs and traditions. In so doing, Ukrainians will demonstrate to the world, in the face of Moscow’s lies and disinformation, that Ukrainians are a separate and distinct people with a separate and distinct beautiful national identity; that Ukrainians have a right to live as a free and independent people in their own homeland, the nation-state of Ukraine.
As Luciw was concluding his remarks, violinist Innesa Tymochko Dekajlo walked onto the stage playing Skoryk’s haunting Melodiya on her violin, as Anastasiya Braha recited Lesya Ukrainka’s inspirational poem, Contra Spem Spero – I Hope against All Hope. This led into the Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble’s performance of its regal “Pryvit”.
The concert was on its way. 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. It roused the audience time and time again. As is the tradition at Tryzub, the artists designed, created and executed an integrated collaborative concert program.
Repeatedly, three dance ensembles, Volsohky, Iskra and Carpathia performed dynamic masterpieces that filled the stage with the majesty of Ukrainian dance artistry and generated a seemingly endless stream of audience accolades. They literally wowed the crowd. Notably, Carpathia, appearing for the first time on the Tryzub stage, added an international flavor to the concert, performing most interesting Polish, Romanian and Hungarian numbers.
This year’s featured performer, singer-songwriter Iryna Lonchyna gave an awesome, spirited performance of her own works and traditional and modern Ukrainian folk songs and melodies, all masterfully and uniquely arranged by her.
Guest artists from Sierra Leone, West Africa, Mohammed Tarawally (stage-name "Daddy Muse") and his daughter Ruge, contributed greatly to the cultural mosaic of the day with a dynamic, indeed majestic, rap artists' salute to Ukraine, a song entitled "Slava Ukraine".
Amazing and inspiring performances by violinist Innesa Tymochko Dekajlo, by Alex Lagoda and the Kholodnyy Yar Band, and by singers Yuliya Stupen and Ihor Sypen, completed the mosaic of Ukrainian artistic and national unity. Singer-songwriter "Asanna" (Anya Kosakhevich) also captivated the audience with her newly recorded song "Where is My Ukraine".
Festival-goers received greetings from three special guests: Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA 8th), David Oh, Councilman-at-large for the City of Philadelphia, and Leonid Avdiiuk, a severely injured Ukrainian soldier who is receiving treatment through the benevolent offices of the Revived Soldiers of Ukraine charity.
At the concert program’s finale, The Voloshky, Carpathia and Iskra dancers broke out into a Hopak that was among the most vibrant and majestic that this writer has ever experienced. It was another salute and tribute to the selfless cooperation of the performing artists.
As the encore music of Hopak continued to play, the MCs called all of the performers to the stage for a final good-bye. Yuliya Stupen led the people in the singing of that most beautiful song called Prayer for Ukraine. Shouts of “Glory to Ukraine” – Glory to its Heroes” closed the concert.
A vibrant Zabava-Dance at the outdoor dance pavilion followed to the tunes of the Kholodnyy Yar Band and singer songwriter Ihor Sypen.
Most notably, the festival raised over $10,000.00 for the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee’s Fund for the Humanitarian Relief of Victims of War in Ukraine.