Artek is a place where all the world’s languages have equal rights. This time the language linking all the children who took part in the 8 th International Festival of Children’s and Teenagers’ Art “Our Land, Ukraine,” was Ukrainian. What is unusual is that the festival participants were members of the Ukrainian diaspora from nine nearby and faraway foreign countries.
“What astonished us was how keenly the children from Georgia, Belarus, Armenia, Russia, Poland, Kazakhstan, and other countries feel the Ukrainian word and how much they love our folk songs and dances,” says singer Nina Matviienko, who was a member of the festival jury.
“Sometimes it seems that they have a better command of their mother tongue than some of Kyiv’s schoolchildren. Credit should be given, naturally, to their parents and the Ukrainian cultural centers in the diaspora. Still, these children need more contacts with their Ukrainian peers. This is why we brought together artistic teams from every corner of Ukraine — from the Donbas and Odesa to Ternopil oblast and Volyn — as well as representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora.”
The longhaired eastern beauties Mariam Oganian and Aka Shakhverdian, as well as 10 members of the Dzvinochok vocal group, who sing Ukrainian folk songs in clear, ringing voices, came from Yerevan.
“There are more than 2,000 Ukrainians living in Armenia today,” says the group’s artistic director Ruben Karasaferian. “The republic has two registered Ukrainian associations: the Federation of Ukrainians of Armenia and the Union of Ukrainians. The federation, which our group represents, operates a Sunday school and a library, and publishes the magazine Dnipro-Slavutych in the Ukrainian and Armenian languages. At first, only ethnic Ukrainian children sang in our group. But interest in Ukrainian songs is so great in Armenia that our group began admitting children from other ethnic backgrounds, who sing in Ukrainian with pleasure.”
Young Polina Biba and Alina Klymenko from Kazakhstan wear Ukrainian embroidered blouses, as if they were born wearing them. Their parents, ethnic Ukrainians, instilled in them a love for all things Ukrainian, and their teachers at the Astana-based Ukrainian school are helping them develop their talents. Kazakhstan has the world’s third- largest Ukrainian diaspora. In the 1998 census approximately 798,000 citizens of Kazakhstan identified themselves as Ukrainians.
Ukrainians in Kazakhstan live predominantly in the northern part of the country. Many live in Karaganda, Astana, Pavlodar, Semipalatinsk, Taldy-Kurgan, Shortandy, and Almaty. At the Artek festival the Ukrainian diaspora was represented by pupils from Ukrainian Comprehensive School No. 47 in Astana and the Taras Shevchenko Ukrainian Cultural Center in Satpaiev.
Brothers Myron and Omelian Fitsak from Peremyshl (Przemyszl) in Poland play the sopilka, an ancient musical instrument. The two boys represent the nearly 350,000-strong Ukrainian diaspora in Poland, whose ancestors used to live in the historical Boiko, Lemko, and Kholm regions. The Ukrainians of Poland have never forgotten their ethnic roots. They have several Ukrainian associations and publish a few Ukrainian-language periodicals. Almost every Ukrainian family in Poland owns Ukrainian national musical instruments, as well as Shevchenko’s Kobzar and an embroidered shirt.
The girls from Peremyshl, who performed on the bandura, caused a sensation in Artek. They held an unofficial competition with bandura-playing girls from the village of Komsomolske, Kharkiv oblast (Vesnianochka) and the Estonian city of Paldiski (Troisti Muzyky).
It turns out that people know how to dance the fiery hopak not only in Uzhhorod (the showpiece folk dance ensemble Dzhereltse Karpat) but also in Kazakhstan (Zabava from Satpaiev) and in Karelia (Ukrainski Lastivky from Petrozavodsk).
Merited Artist of Ukraine Vasyl Ilashchuk, a jury member, said that it was a difficult task to name the winners in the four different nominations — vocal art, artistic reading, musical art, and fashion theaters. All the children charmed the audience with their sincerity, talent, and devotion to art. Every participant of this festival came away with a prize, in addition to the privilege of spending 10 days at the seaside beneath the cypresses.