Dancers learn from Ukrainian adventure

Vernon's Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble absorbs the culture and history of Ukraine.

Members of the Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble visit the giant pysanka (Easter egg) in the town of Kolomaya in Western Ukraine.

Members of the Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble visit the giant pysanka (Easter egg) in the town of Kolomaya in Western Ukraine.

The Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble of Vernon has recently returned from Ukraine where members had a two-week adventure in the Carpathian Mountains and participated in a dance workshop in the ancient city of Lviv.

Twelve members of the local performing ensemble toured Kyiv and Western Ukraine to learn about their heritage first hand.

Once in Lviv, the ensemble partook in a Transcarpathian dance workshop at the resident studio of the famous Yunist Ukrainian Dance Ensemble. They were instructed by the artistic director of the Zakarpathia State Ensemble.

Their tour began in Kyiv, the 1,500-year-old capital of Ukraine.

Kyiv is a city rich in architectural and historical sites and is one of the most beautiful capitals of Eastern Europe.

We spent an evening exploring Kyiv’s Podol region and also enjoyed an evening cruise on the famous Dnipro River.

A local tour guide shared the history of Kyiv that included St. Vladymyr’s Cathedral, Kyiv Opera Theatre, famous Red University, and Shevchenko Monument along with an afternoon visit to the Kyiv Pecherska Lavra, Ukraine’s largest monastery, and entered into the famous burial caves.

A group photo was taken at the famous Golden Gates of Kyiv and the ensemble spent time at the Orange Revolution Independence Square, St. Andrews Church, Rastrelli’s masterpiece, and St. Sophia’s 11th century church, a masterpiece of world architecture and arts and a UNESCO site.

The group concluded their tour with a visit to the Memorial of Holodomor Victims in Ukraine National Museum, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper honoured the memories of Ukrainian genocide victims Oct. 25, 2010.

Sadok took an interesting overnight train on the old Soviet transportation to Chernivtsi, where they stayed at a new resort outside the city. A lovely Bukovynian banquet was provided which included local traditional dishes and entertainment by the Apelsyny Dance Ensemble and local singers.

This 12th century city of Chernivtsi is the centre of the region of Bukovyna and is known for its baroque architecture. The ensemble was given a private tour of the residence of the Bukovynian and Dalmatian Metropolitans, which was declared a National Park in 1945. The property was transferred to Yuriy Fedkovich Chernivtsi National University under the Ministry of Education of Ukraine in 1955, where they have an exchange program with the University of Saskatoon. This site is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Sadok then traveled to the old town of Kamianets Podilsky, another UNESCO historic site, with its historic castles of Kamianets Podilsky and Khotyn.

Sadok paid a visit to the town of Kolomaya in Western Ukraine’s Ivano-Frankivsk region, where the modern wonder of Ukraine is located, the world’s largest pysanka (Easter egg). (The second largest is in Vegreville, Alta.) The museum is the most prominent tourist attraction in the pre-Carpathian town of Kolomaya. Although its full title is the Kolomaya Museum of Folk Art named after father Josafat Kobrynskyi, if you simply ask for the pysanka, everyone in town will understand you and point you in the right direction.

Our travels continued to Kosiv, a picturesque little town in Hutsulshchyna — the land of high Ukrainian Carpathians mountains, torrents and fresh air. The town is more than 500 years old and is a district seat of Ivano-Frankivsk region in Ukraine. Kosiv is famous for its outstanding artists who not only create beautiful things, but also keep national traditions in embroidery, ceramics, weaving, wooden carvings, and weaving linen and woolen items.

Sadok enjoyed the sheer beauty of the surrounding countryside where the air is crisp, the water is clear and the landscape is breathtaking. There are few small cities in Ukraine more worth visiting than Kosiv.

A wonderful day was spent in the village of my forefathers, Ispas, by attending the local Orthodox Church where my grandparents attended as children before immigrating to Canada in 1902. The group was treated to local hospitality with a luncheon at my cousin’s home.

They continued their trip relaxing in the resort town of Yaremcha, and then traveled the scenic route along the Carpathian Mountains and beautiful grapevine fields to Ukraine’s most western city of Uzhorod. On the way to Uzhorod the dancers traveled on horseback to the Skaly Dovbusha – famous caves where Olexa Dovbush (Robin Hood of Ukraine) and his band of outlaws lived and hid from the authorities.

The Rocks of Dovbush are a fascinating combination of natural wonders and man-made creations located in Ukraine’s Ivano-Frankivsk. Dovbush’s rocks are said to have been formed some 70 million years ago, when they were still hidden by the sea. The formations are made up of oddly shaped stones, massive caves, shadowy gorges, impressive fortifications, yawning pits, winding labyrinths and mysterious pathways carved from the sandstone. Amongst the 50-metre high structures are unique wooden cave buildings, pointing to historical habitation. Archeological discoveries have revealed an observatory dating back to the 10th-to-17th centuries BC.

The ensemble continued to Ukraine’s most western city of Uzhorod, which borders Hungary and Slovakia and is built on the banks of the Uzh River. The old Slavic city features the ninth century fortified castle, vineyards on the hill sides and many historical and architectural monuments. The adults enjoyed a memorable evening of local wine tasting.

Sadok travelled back to Lviv where they enjoyed staying at a private mansion in the city centre. Upon arrival to Lviv, the ensemble partook in a dance workshop at the Palace of Culture, home to Lviv’s premium dance ensemble, Yunist. Lviv is famous for its beauty, monuments and variety of architectural styles. The central part of Lviv, the old town, full of narrow cobbled stone streets, magnificent churches and lovely homes, is a UNESCO world heritage site. The ensemble toured the city with a private local guide that included Independence Square, the stunning Solomiya Krushelnytska Lviv State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, Italian Court, Market Square, ancient Armenian quarter, St. George’s Cathedral and University. Following the tour they had lunch at the Lviv Brewery and spent the afternoon at Lviv’s new indoor Waterpark.

Sadok next performs at the Ukrainian Wedding Gala in Kelowna Aug. 31. The ensemble’s registration night for the 2013/14 dance season is  Sept. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Elks Hall, 3103 30th St. Visit www.sadok.net for info.

Andrea Malysh is the artistic director of the Sadok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.