- Clements Park
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This year, as in previous years, the Ukrainian American community of Denver organized and hosted an event celebrating Ukrainian Independence Day in beautiful Clements Park. This year’s celebration marked 23 years since the break up of the Soviet Union, when Ukraine became a sovereign, independent country.
The seeds for this event were sprouted in mid-May, and the plans kept changing and growing. Once we had an Organizing Committe in place, it was full speed ahead. Those instrumental in making it happen were Marina Dubrova, Oksana Ruda-Bantley, Iulia Giovanelli, Halyna Kotova, Chrystia Losjanovich and Nadja Myronenko, with the help of Ihor Figlus. May I mention that we could not have done it without each and every one of our wonderful volunteers to whom we humbly bow in gratitude!
As a member of the committee planning and organizing the celebratory event, along other set-up volunteers, I arrived early to help hang the festive balloons, banners, and signs. It promised to be an absolutely marvelous day–sunny and warm but not too hot–the breeze gently flowing over the lake made it glisten in the morning sun. Those who had volunteered to handle the food and beverages raced around making sure all the booths and tables were set up with the beautiful sea of yellow and blue tablecloths. People began arriving early. The barbeque pits were being lit and the place was abuzz with happy helpers. Guests began arriving, and soon the 200 we anticipated turned out to be 400. The current crisis in Ukraine seemed to make the event more poignant than ever, drawing this unexpectedly large crowd and generating great enthusiasm. This was probably due to the fact that we were graciously given free advertising space in the local newspaper Zapad Vostok.
Mingling in the crowd, I managed to spot Mr. Dennis Gallagher, former Senator and now City and County Auditor, always ready to show his support. There were so many new faces, and we may have missed some local celebrities.
The program was officially opened with Ukraine’s National Anthem performed by Marylebone Players and the crowd joined in and sang along. Oksana Ivanusa, along with Natalia Sims and Dance Director, Oksana Heorgian, did an outstanding job with the children who performed hotsulsky dance, sang songs and recited some poetry. The adult choir performed some well known folk songs always accompanied by our local accordionist, Stepan Ivanusa.
Of course, there could not be a Ukrainian festival without Tom Masterson, Folk Dance Instructor and Director of “Postoley Dance Ensemble”, from Boulder, who with his lovely partner performed their favorite Ukrainian folk dances, and then taught some steps to the eager audience. My dear friend, Betty Zelem, graced us with her favorite bandura songs; some of the children and Pani Morozevich, our favorite matriarch, were mesmerized as she plucked away at the beautiful Ukrainian national instrument.
Once the DJ, Ruslan, started the party music, many ladies wore out their dancing shoes on the concrete center “stage.” As the sun was setting over the Rockies, we were beginning to feel a little sad because it was all going to end soon.
During the day-long event, vendors sold traditional Ukrainian embroidery, pysanky, and artful items, attracting numerous people to their booths. People stood in long lines to feast on the delicious varenyky and holubtsi prepared by the best cooks in town, including the homemade tortes and other desserts by members of the local branch of the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America. After it was all over, I heard that the barbequed skewered meat was awesome (I didn’t have anything to eat all day) and agonized over the fact that we ran out of food and beer and water because no one had anticipated that attendance would be twice as high as we prepared for.
As I write about this year’s Independence Day celebration, I am cautiously optimistic that the current situation in Ukraine will stabilize and that the country will finally achieve long-awaited stability and prosperity. We worked very hard to make it fun, and the event helped us raise over $4,000.00 which was used by our newly-created non-profit organization, Ukrainians of Colorado, to purchase needful items for our Ukrainian freedom fighters. For more information, please visit www.UkrainiansofColorado.com to see our work in progress and future events.
We are looking forward to seeing all those wonderful folks again at next year’s celebration which we hope will not have to be a fund-raiser for wounded soldiers in Ukraine, but for some educational program.
Nadja A. Myronenko