Another hugely successful UCC-Toronto Ukrainian Independence Day celebration

The Ukrainian School of Dance. Photo: NP-UN

Nadia Prokopiw, UCC-Toronto.

North America’s Largest Celebration of the 28th Anniversary of Ukrainian Independence, organized by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress–Toronto Branch, was celebrated in Toronto at Centennial Park on Saturday August 24, 2019.

It was our best event ever! Blessed with beautiful weather, attended by record thousands, greeted by representatives from the Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments, charmed by songstress Oksana Mukha, “The Voice of Ukraine” herself, and entertained by the country’s top dance and vocal ensembles.

The crowds started pouring in at 10:00 am, then indulged themselves at the many vendor booths, displays, Ukrainian Food and a robust succession of prominent entertainment. They shopped, they ate, they partied. They watched as Oksana Mukha mesmerized the crowds … and then danced the night away under the stars to our live band ‘Dunai’.

Oksana Mukha performs. Photo: Mykola Swarnyk

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The Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Toronto Branch, together with its very generous sponsors, again had the great pleasure of hosting this very special event that fell this year on the exact Anniversary date of Ukraine’s Declaration of Independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The battle for freedom still continues, yet the spirit of Ukraine will never be weakened, as echoed in the remarks given at centre stage.

After prayers and blessings, UCC-Toronto President, Taras Bahriy, opened the ceremonies and welcomed the crowd introducing this year’s continuing theme “100 Years of Struggle for Freedom”.

Sentimental and supportive greetings were given by Andriy Shevchenko, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada, accompanied by Sviatoslav Kavetskyi Consul General of Ukraine and Col. Victor Siromakha Ukrainian Defence Attaché.

Front row: dignitaries at the Ukrainian day in Toronto’s Centennial Park on August 24. Photo: M. Swarnyk

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s Minister of Science and Sports spoke to the community and was joined by MP’s Peter Fonseca, Julie Dzerowicz, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, James Maloney and Liberal candidate Yvan Baker. A great friend to the Ukrainian Community, MP James Bezan, offered compassionate greetings and was joined by conservative candidates Ted Opitz, Krystina Waler, Barry O’Brien, Wladyslaw Lizon, and Adam Pham.

On the provincial level, the Honourable Kinga Surma, Associate Minister of Transportation greeted the crowd along with MPP’s Christine Hogarth and Rasheed Kaleed. Deputy Mayor of Toronto Stephen Holyday brought greetings from the City of Toronto that now hosts the Holodomor Memorial Park at Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto. Alexandra Chyczij, President of UCC National, in her closing remarks, thanked all levels of the Canadian Government for standing in support of Ukraine. The afternoon was expertly emceed by Larysa Bajus and Myron Konyk.

This year the enthusiastic crowd was entertained by our special guest performer from Ukraine: the fabulous winner of Voice of Ukraine, Oksana Mukha, who gave an unforgettable performance. The very vibrant and colourful concert program and stage show included Toronto’s renowned Dance Ensembles – Barvinok, Desna, Kalyna, Ukraina and Vesnyanka; The Regimental Band and Bugles of The Queen’s Own Rifles; and vocalists Otava and the duo Ihor and Adrianna Artemiak.

The Regimental Band and Bugles of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Photo: M. Swarnyk

The shopping bazaar gets better every year. Embroidered blouses, jewellery, and arts vendors offered their many wares to an eager crowd. As always, the Ukrainian Canadian School Board provided a robust Children’s Amusement Centre which included inflatables, games and crafts. A large classroom bus displaying and teaching the history of the Holodomor, was a moving attraction for those desiring to learn about the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine and genocide, The Holodomor. The day was concluded with a lively outdoor Zabava at the Carpathian Lounge, where a capacity crowd of revelers danced to the music of Dunai well into the night.

This event would not be possible without the generosity of our Platinum Plus Sponsors – Horodynsky Farms and Temerty Foundation; our Platinum Sponsors – Buduchnist Credit Union and the Zaraska Family; our Gold Sponsors – Ukrainian Credit Union, Halenda’s Meats, Meest, Caravan Group, Stageworхs and the Krzywucki Family; and, our Silver Sponsors – New Canadian Drain & Plumbing and Ukraine International Airlines. CTV, Forum, Kontakt, Razom, Meest Radio and Song of Ukraine acted as Media sponsors.

UNF Toronto’s Kalyna Performing Arts Company. Photo: Mykola Swarnyk

The UCC-Toronto Independence Day organizing committee and an amazing team of hard-working volunteers, who after six months of planning work, began on Friday to set up the event, ran it all day Saturday, and then completed the take-down and clean-up on Sunday, were invaluable to the smooth functioning, viability and great success of this event. Special thanks go to the Ukrainian Canadian Women’s Council, Toronto Branch, together with the Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada, League of Ukrainian Women in Canada, Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada and Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada for their tireless work at the entrance and information gate.

After the culmination of a successful, jam-packed event of stage shows, food fairs, beverage gardens, market places, children’s activities, sports tourneys, and Zabava, we invite all to join the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Toronto Branch in the planning of and participation in next year’s Ukrainian Independence Day 2020!

The Toronto Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress sincerely thanks all our generous sponsors, our honoured guests and our community for participating and supporting this very special event.

The parade. Photo: Mykola Swarnyk