The Ukrainian Canadian community is celebrating the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada as Vernon’s Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble celebrates its 17th annual Okanagan Ukrainian Festival, Sunday at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
The first wave of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada can be traced back to Sept. 9, 1891, when two young men from present-day western Ukraine disembarked from the SS Oregon at Quebec City. They had heard about “free lands” in Canada, a country of refuge and freedom.
The two travelled together as far as Winnipeg and one remained in the area. The other man went further to Edmonton before returning to Ukraine to retrieve his family and return to Canada to live.
Today, there are more than 1.3 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent and Canada has the third largest population of ethnic Ukrainians, after Ukraine and Russia.
As with other groups of immigrants, conditions were not always ideal for early Ukrainian immigrants. They faced environments that could be hostile both on the land and with the prejudice they faced.
In the First World War, thousands of ethnic Ukrainians were interned in prison camps across Canada. Ukrainian Canadians persevered and thrived by celebrating and sharing their culture in a multicultural Canadian society.
The Okanagan Ukrainian Festival is hosted by Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, a local dance theatre troupe that have performed throughout the Okanagan Valley and across Western Canada, studied in Ukraine and performed at Disneyland, California.
This year’s special guests are the Pokotillo Ukrainian Dancers of Kamloops.
“If you say ‘Ukrainian dancing,’ most Canadians will be able easily to imagine the costumes, dance, music, and energy,” said Sadok’s artistic director Andrea Malysh. “This is because Ukrainian Canadians have been sharing our culture in Canada for more than a century.”
This year’s Ukrainian festival production is called VATRA – FIRE.
Many Ukrainians celebrate Kupala Night, or summer solstice, with bonfires that last throughout the night. Some people leap over the flames as it is believed this cleanses illness and bad luck. People sing songs about love, romance, and marriage and some women wear traditional clothes with embroidery and a wreath of flowers on their head to celebrate.
“The festival includes performers as young as three years old and up to adults of all ages,” said Malysh. “What we all share is a love of dance, music, and the freedom and diversity of Canadian culture.”
Sadok invites all to an afternoon of dance, drama and Ukrainian spirit as they celebrate the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, Sunday, May 29 at 2 p.m. at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre.
Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller box office in the Performing Arts Centre. Call 250-549-7469 or visit www.ticketseller.ca.