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September 2007 - Nr. 9


The Editor
Letter to the Editor
In Canada, eh?
Tag der Heimat 2007
Hier O.K. Berlin!
KW & Beyond
German Pioneers Day
Dan's Satire
Lessons by Stray Dogs
German Diplomat at York University
Dick reports...
Sybille reports
Ham Se det jehört?
German Women's Soccer
Art History: September
Forming of YOUdance
October Listings
Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra
The Elephant Man
COC Surpasses $10 Million
COC: Schafer@75
German Films at TIFF
Screen Industry Growth
Attract Skilled Newcomers
Impact of Idling at Schools
Community Power Fund
Thinner Ice in Arctic
Concern About Uranium
Chair of National Redress Council
War Made Easy
Financial Basics

Dick reports...

Dick Altermann at his computer

Ukrainian Festival’s
New Format

For a number of years the Ukrainian Festival was held at the Bloor West Village around this time of the year. This proved to be a very expensive proposition, despite the fact that it was one of the most successful – and eagerly awaited by many, I might add – events of the summer. The city simply asked for too much security details, which drove the cost way up. Electricity set ups and other needs also were huge expenses. This is the reason also why the German Christmas Market did not succeed in Toronto. The city’s requirements and costs are so exorbitant that organizers are compelled to look for other locations to hold a festival.

Ukrainian Zabava was the alternative that was needed! Holding the event at Harbourfront seemed to be a good, less expensive solution.

Yes and no! It depends who is looking. The event on Boor street was a solid Ukrainian ‘Happening’ with opening ceremonies, a parade on Bloor Street, food and drink booths, a great number of kiosks displaying goods from their homeland, lots of entertainment and a general good feeling of togetherness, camaraderie and pride in their heritage. It was allowing other ethnic groups to look over the fence at what this proudly Ukrainian community was willing to share with their new neighbours here in Canada.

Colouring Ukrainian styleThe event at Harbourfront in comparison is a somewhat watered-down copy of the original concept. Yes, there were still a kiosks offering Ukrainian merchandise and customs . There was Easter egg painting in the kid’s tent and some entertainment spread throughout this huge area that is ‘Harbourfront’.

Decorative eggsThere was ‘Culture in action’ in the Lakeside Terrace Tent. Dance and musical entertainment at the Toronto Star stage – but few and far between. Of course the exposure of the cultural aspect of the event may have been larger Costumed dollssince many more people visited the area for other attractions, not just the Ukrainian event. That could be a positive slant on continuing on this venue in the future, especially if the costs to the organizers are lower.

Ukrainian wedding ceremony

Introducing the playOne of the highlights of the event was of course the "Ukrainian Wedding" stage show on the Sirius stage. The MC led the large audience through the complicated rituals of a typical Ukrainian wedding.

The audience learned that the world of the ancient Slavs was tightly connected to the world of the ancestors that had already passed away. Even today, in southern Ukraine – which preserves more traditions and customs - every summer village women pay their respect to the ancestors of the families – so called ‘Didam’

In the ancient times people believed that during those days the spirits of the forefathers come to this world to take care of the living ones. Their greatest might was displayed at the time of the Equinox, when ‘rysalky’ or witches were roaming through the fields and forests of the country, not so unlike the stories we know from other northern folklore.

The ceremony

In this play, at the presence of the whole community, the women-sorceress unites the couple – Halyna and Vasil (Ukrainian Adam & Eve) - that was brought together by fate: from the preparation for the wedding through the bridal night, the gathering, the wedding train, the bedroom (the couple are not on stage then), splitting of the Korovay Cake to changing the hair of the bride until she is a married woman and only her husband is allowed to see her hair. Mnohaya Lita!

The evening at the large stage concluded with a performance of the large, over 30-man Canadian Bandurist Capella, consisting of musicians and a choir. The Bandura is a 16-string instrument that is native to the Ukraine. Petro Stilmachenko, tenorOne of the performers of note in the choir was Petro Stilmachenko a tenor and opera singer. His son Sergei – a baritone – is well known on stages around Europe and often performs with the Opéra National de Paris. In Canada he performed with the Montreal Opera, Vancouver Opera, Oxford Festival and other venues. Surely we will hear much more of both them in times to come.

Another highlight at the Studio Theatre was Damian Kolodiy’s film "The Orange Chronicles". The film focuses on the passionate people who filled the streets of Kiev during the Presidential Elections of 2004 to protest the poisoning of their candidate Victor Yuhchenko, an unjust election and the corrupt government that created it. Surely you remember the heavy news coverage we had on that locally.

This extraordinary documentary chronicles operations and sentiments on the ground during the lead up to the elections, and provides a clear understanding of the dramatic confrontations and high stakes of that time. It also explores what motivated the people to activate, as well as the emotional conflicts among the bitterly divided populace. Lessons about the power of organized activism can be applied the world over to successful opposition against electoral corruption.

It was one of the best and most moving documentaries I have seen in a long time. More power to the people!

As always

Dick Altermann


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