Since the beginning of 2007, in cities throughout the tri-state area, the Organization for the Defense of Lemko-Western Ukraine (known by its acronym OOL) has hosted a series of public events to commemorate the 60 th anniversary of Akcja “Wisla,” the 1947 forced relocation of the Ukrainian minority within Poland. This series culminated in OOL’s annual festival, named the “ Lemkivska Vatra ,” on the weekend of June 29-July 1 at the Ukrainian Youth Association resort in Ellenville, NY.
Andrii Olefirov, a representative of the Consulate General of Ukraine in NYC who attended the festival, praised and encouraged OOL’s continuing activity. He also expressed optimism regarding the future of Polish-Ukrainian relations, noting that the joint hosting of the World Cup soccer championships in 2010 by the two countries symbolized a positive shift. It is important to remember the past, but also to look towards the future, the consul said.
The keynote speaker at the festival, Dmytro Trojanovsky, also remarked on recent positive events between Poland and Ukraine. After outlining the difficult history of Ukrainians in post-WWII Poland, Trojanovsky noted the joint agreement on April 27 by presidents Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine and Lech Kaczynski of Poland to remember the victims of Akcja “Wisla” and to pursue a strategic partnership between their two countries.
Like in past years, the Lemkivska Vatra featured a cultural program with musicians and performers presenting traditional regional Lemko songs and dances. Such performers included the singers “Pid Oblachkom,” the musical group “Cheres UFO,” the dance ensemble “Obryi,” the sisters Oros duet, and others.
One of the hundreds of festival attendees, Dorothy Doloszycki of Little Falls, NJ, said she had recently visited the Lemko region for the first time. Her father was forcibly relocated from this territory in 1947, but had never returned.
“Oh my God, it was gorgeous. The mountains. The fields are all green,” Doloszycki said. “Honestly, it does make culture more important to me. If I have kids, they’re definitely going to go back and see it.”
For more information about the Organization for the Defense of Lemko-Western Ukraine, please contact Zenon Halkowycz, OOL president, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article written by Diana Howansky