Picture – Ensemble from Lemkivshchyna – Khomyk Family.
hoto by Diana Howansky-Reily.
The 10th jubilee Lemko Vatra occurred on July 3rd-4th 2010 in Ellenville (New York). Here gathered representatives of several lemko generations from the United States, Ukraine, Poland and Canada. They assembled because of their longing for the native land, a need for more and once again to entwine the heart with the native tunes, to give the body to magic of dance, a need to pass a treasure of traditions to those who will emerge to protect the Lemko cultural heritage tomorrow and beyond. Without any instructions “from above”, driven only by an inner sense of belonging to a single nation, Ukrainians light Lemko Vatra (bonfire) in different countries of the world, patterning them with an almost identical storyline canvas for all Vatra’s. So here in Elenville, the scenario was written by heart.
The official opening of the festival was scheduled on Saturday at the fifth hour of the evening. Numerous people go on stage to greet guests and participants: Organizing secretary of the National Board, Vatra’s “starosta” (elder), Vasily Harhaj; the representative of the World Federation of Ukrainian-lemko unions Zenko Voytovych; the Head of the National Board of the Organization for the Defense of Lemkivshchyna Zenko Galkovych; Head of the Lemko Research Foundation Stefan Hovanskij; Manager of resort of Ukrainian Youth Association Andriy Stasiv and heads of OOL’s branches.
Vasyl Harhaj talks about the Lemkos, who woke up the mountains with singing, about their love for the Carpathian Mountains, about the year 1947, when by the satanic will of a Satanic Government Lemko families were forced to pack the lives of several generations in one little cartload and carry it, harnessed with sorrow, into the world. About the lullabies and fairy tales that with their help have defended Lemko identity in the days when the only talisman was prayer and Holy faith in the indestructibility of the Ukrainian soul. About Vatra, that always warms the Lemko’s heart and body.
The best of the activists, perennial members of OOL – Mykola Kulyk, Ivan Dorojickij and Peter Gres are giving life to a bright flame.
On the stage a choir of the Church of St. Nicholas The chorus from St. Nicholas Church of Passaic, N.J. was invited and the Lemko hymn “Mountains our mountains” flies into the evening. The chorus is singing, the Lemko elders are singing, under the sky the majestic song is rising, telling about the Lemko Vatra in the American land. The feast began.
And then there was the concert program offered by Galina Semenyak and Mikhail Guchko
At the beginning Zenon Voytovych in a humor rhymed monologue told us about Lemko community life. And then artists began their performances. Organizers tried to vary the program as much as possible to make it unlike the previous ones. They invited mostly new participants. From the permanent participents were sisters Nadia and Natalie Pavlishin. They remain consistently true to the Lemko repertoire. The Lemko Vatra in sisters’ lives coincided with another significant event. Recently, Pope Benedict XVI himself awarded the young singers with a Diploma on the occasion of the decade of their concert activity. Not every artist has such a high honor for many decades of creative activity. The audience warmly welcomed the girls with a high acclaim.
Inessa astonished everyone with her great skills. In her tender, small figure we could see an elegant affinity of violinist and her instrument. In Inesa’s hands the violin looked as a living being, which was creating a hymn to life and feelings, singing hosanna of Gospel’s beauty, trustingly expressing a soul’s desire of love.
The audience deservedly awarded with enthusiastic applause the honored artist of Ukraine Oleg Chmyr, opera singer Anna Bachinsky and and her star student Anna Smith.
Lemko songs that with such enthusiasm were performed by the Homiki family band had been greeted warmly by the audience.
Outstanding creative work was demonstrated by dance bands “Mrija” from Passaic and “Zolotij Promin” from Connecticut, singer Nadia Kobeljak from Canada, accordionist Michael Platosh from Connecticut and others.
The ensemble “Barvinok” bewitched the audience. The group’s high professional dance performance is due to its leader – Grigory Momot. How much he remembers – Grigory danced. When he was barely 6 years old, he was recommended by a special committee looking for gifted children and they said he was among the three most talented children from the Ternopil region to study at a specialized choreographic boarding school in Kyiv. There Grigory began to master the art of dance. And then there was a choreographic school, institute, and work in the ensemble of Virsky. After winning a green card he decided to move to the United States. But here he also saw himself only tied with dance. He loves kids and respects them. No wonder the parents of his students and the dancers themselves talk about him with gratitude and admiration. Grigory makes a choreography taking into account the natural data and the professional level of each in the team – both the newcomer and the one who grew up with the ensemble. Grigory is sure – there are no children without a talent. And he proves this by the high mastery of his students.
Dance groups and singers have changed each other. The concert lasted for several hours, and then the musicians called everyone to dance. Fun attracted both young and older. Guests were leaving far after midnight but nobody slept through the morning Liturgy.
On Sunday morning at 10 o’clock near the Lemko Chapel gathered guests and participants. More than 100 children from CYM summer camp lined in honor guard to honor the memory of the Heroes of Ukraine who fell for her liberation. Reverend Bishop Pavel Khomnytsky served the Episcopate Holy Liturgy and the dirge service for the dead and martyred heroes. The service was accompanied by the choir of St. Nicholas parish of Passaic. With the singing of the Ukraine and the United States anthems, the flags of both countries were raised, and after that wreaths were placed on monuments to the heroes.
Short, but meaningful speeches were made by the President of SCUDO Askold Lozynsky, representatives of the Defense Organization of Four Freedom Mikhail Kuzyup and Ivan Burtyk. Emotionally the event was reflected in mini-play of CYM students, which showed in their performances the heroism of the past days.
The feast continued
Music played all day long. Thanks to the bands “Cheremosh”, “Halichany”, “Oberihi”, “Vidlunnja” and “Udych”, it was possible to dance from Friday to Sunday, day and night, indoors and outdoors.
The organizers of the holiday took care of everything. Guests rested – as they wanted. Some swimmed in the pool, some tested the power of their muscles and endurance at the sports ground, some satisfied the curiosity of viewing artistic exhibitions or participating in attractions, some simply resting on lounger or folding chairs in the shade of branchy trees. In tent shops it was possible to buy souvenirs, books, embroidered clothes, other goods with Ukrainian symbols. And what about Ukrainian delicacies – that was enough for everyone and for all tastes. OOL activists from Passaic, New York, Irvington and other OOL branches worked hard over it.
And on Sunday guests still were mentioning the roasted pigs. They were complaining that this treat had been already finished. Though this year were roasted as many as three pigs. Apparently, next year it will be necessary to roast four.
Everyone was singing, laughing, making new acquaintances. The following attracted attention. Children, for whom Ukrainian language have already become foreign, also sang Lemko songs, combining English and Ukrainian as they perceived. It was seen that they are proud of Ukraine and their origin.
On the indestructibility of the Ukrainian spiritual essence
Unity in such events is not just a manifestation of creative ardor for individual enthusiasts. It is a genetically-built need to preserve the achievements of the millennial culture. Wherever the Lemkos settled everywhere their ritual and – as an integral part of it – Vatra traveled with them. So it was 200 and 100 years ago, so it is now. For if it were otherwise, for the sake of what thing, the Lemko Vatra’s would be bright with fire of love for the native land not only in Ukraine but also in Poland, Slovakia, Croatia, Canada, Argentina, and here in the United States. That’s why today we are gathered to prove for ourself and to all world our ethnic ability and self-sufficiency.
The guests leaving the festival noted with gratitude the owners of the holiday – the Organization for the Defense of the Lemko Region in America and the resort of Ukrainian Youth Association and sponsors, with the help of which Lemko Vatra was held – the Ukrainian Credit Unions “Samopomych” in New York, Passaic and Irvington.
– Nadia Burmaka, published in “Meest:” weekly