Ukrainian newcomers were welcomed to Bonnyville on Thursday in a celebration of the culture’s traditions and customs.
Vyshyvanka Day was celebrated internationally on Thursday, May 19 including at the St. Louis Parish Hall, where 17 Ukrainians had recently fled the country and arrived in the Bonnyville area, said Bonnyville FCSS director David Beale.
A vyshyvanka is the colourfully embroidered clothing associated with the celebration of Ukrainian culture.
The get-together was put on by the Bonnyville FCSS and Action for Healthy Communities as a welcoming for those displaced by the current conflict.
“We received a letter from our minister saying we want FCSS’ and municipalities to do what they can to support those Ukrainians who are arriving on our shores because of the war,” said Beale.
“We’re saying what can we do as a community to support them, the Bonnyville Ukrainian community — those who have been here, whether it’s a short time or a long time — they showed up with bells on. Well, with their Vyshyvankas on.”
Roughly 150 to 200 people showed up to the event and were treated to a performance by the Kryla dancers. Many of those in attendance provided donations to help the new Ukrainian families get adjusted into the community.
A Facebook group Ukrainians in Lakeland, Alberta has been established in that effort. Beale said at least most of the newcomers have some family, or extended family in the area.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is accepting donations to go towards gift cards and other items.
“We’re going to be having information for those who want to look at employing Ukrainian persons from the Ukraine,” said Beale.
“We’re trying to do what we can to make it as comforting as possible. I’m hopeful that the Ukrainians who were here, newcomers into our community this week, are able to say how they want us, they love us.”
Former MLA Genia Leskiw emceed the festivities on Thursday.
“We never really celebrated it in Bonnyville and we were planning a host evening anyways for our Ukrainian newcomers. We said why not have it on this day that symbolizes Ukrainian unity throughout the world. We didn’t expect close to 200 people here today. So it’s been overwhelming, and you can tell Ukrainians haven’t been together for a while, because it’s very noisy. And just the way we love it,” she said.
For those interested in helping out the cause, you can contact the Bonnyville FCSS or Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
“We will help put you in touch with those depending on how you want to help what you’re looking for,” said Beale. “We’re not accepting concrete donations right now. We’ll accept cash donations, especially through the church or gift cards. But we will be trying to match up things to people when we know they need it. That’s the goal here — to match things up.”